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Tales of the Uneasy 



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THE PATRICIAN. By John Galsworthy, Author of 
" Fraternity," etc. 

ACCOUNT RENDERED. By E. F. Benson, Author of 
"Sheaves," etc 

THE WHITE PEACOCK. By D. H. Lawrence. 

TILLERS OP THE SOIL. By J. E. Patterson. 

JANE OGLANDER. By Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, Author of 
" Barbara Rebell," etc 

THE HOUSE OP BONDAOB. By C. G. Common. 

JOHN CHRISTOPHER, I. Dawn and Morning. 

ByROMAIN ROLLAND. 

JOHN CHRISTOPHER, II. Storm and Strew. 

ByROMAIN ROLLAND. 

YOUNQ LIPE. By Jessie Leckie Herbertson, Author of 
" Mortal Men," etc 

LONDON 
WILLIAM HEINEMANN, ax BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



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Tales of the Uneasy 



By 

Violet Hunt 

Author of 
1 White Rose of Weary Leaf," "The Wife of Altamont," etc. 




London 
William Heinemann 

1911 



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8$*% Wftb*; 




^£RA^ 



Copyright, London, 1911, fy William Heinmann 



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Pz. 

3 



TO 

R. B. BYLES 



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CONTENTS 

PAGE 

THE TELEGRAM I 

THE OPERATION 35 

THE MEMOIR 7 1 

THE PRAYER 93 

THE COACH 129 

THE BLUE BONNET 155 

THE WITNESS 1 83 

THE BAROMETER 213 

THE TIGER-SKIN 23 1 



Vll 



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THE TELEGRAM 
% 



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: : THE TELEGRAM 

Her mother was dead. Her life stood altered. 

She would be no poorer, it was not that. She was 
an orphan, and all her mother had had came to her. 
That meant seventy thousand pounds, plate, linen and 
the freehold of a fine old house in Lower Seymour 
Street, that they had moved into a year before the old 
lady died. 

Things were no more altered socially than they were 
altered pecuniarily, for the Darners' set naturally corre- 
sponded, as sets do, with their postal district, and Miss 
Alice Darner could therefore continue to command an 
entrance into the best circles. Only she realized that 
she must henceforth enjoy all these good things to the 
tune of a p^id companion, having no poor and amenable 
relations handy whom she could draft into the household 
economy, and afterwards snub into a colourless, bare 
existence. 

She was thirty-five, and her years did not weigh on 
her, except mentally. The first faint physical signs of 
the debacle were, so far, evident to herself alone, and 
then only in moods of unusual depression. She was 
still young enough to need a companion. Her pretty 
red-gold hair was as red as gold, as pretty as ever, her 
visits to her dentist as few, her eyes as deep, and her 
step as elastic, although she had given up dancing. 
She had made this sacrifice more from a sense of fitness, 

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4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

as a concession to the needs of the young girls coming 
up all round her, and who deserved their turn on the 
floor, than of social necessity. As a matter of fact, she 
had never been really fond of that over-energetic, dis- 
ordering form of amusement. She loved the world and 
going up and down in it immensely, and her way of 
enjoying parties was to sit out if it was a dance, away 
from the music if it was a concert, and in the back of the 
box if it was a play. She was a flirt. 

Not an outrageous, noisy, ill-bred flirt, but what is 
known as a quiet flirt, with many strong and efficient 
strings to her bow. Did one of them, being after all 
only catgut or mere man, snap occasionally — that is to 
say, get married out of the circle of her charm — Alice, 
in her quiet way, promptly renewed the string, and 
supplied herself with a new admirer, as good at fetching 
and carrying as the old. In her mind that was the chief 
use of admirers — to prevent one's looking neglected — 
of course one never really was ! 

She was a woman of many "affairs " ; she liked living, 
not exactly in hot water, but in water at least warm, and 
was seldom seen talking to women, though she was 
quite nice to them, as intrusive but law-permitted aliens 
in the pays du cceur. None of her friends would have 
dared to ask her to a ladies' lunch, or any over-womaned 
party; a man had always to be "got for Alice," else 
she would have been hurt, and quite unable to play 
her part properly. She was unused to, unversed in her 
own sex. 

-On the other hand, she played fair and never took 
other women's men, or encouraged their husbands to 
play the pretty game with her. People said that for 
her, that she never made women unhappy, only men. 
She was never very sorry for a man's love-troubles, for 



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.THE TELEGRAM 5 

she had a theory that a hopeless passion or two did a 
man no harm and that the more he proposed the merrier 
— for him. She never told any one how many offers 
she had refused. Men often did propose to her, and 
she refused them all, and boasted that she had never 
been engaged for even an hour, and that no man had 
ever kissed her. The bloom was not off Alice, unless 
so much mental coming and going in her courts had 
produced some such subtle effect. 

" Why should I marry ? " she used to say to E verard 
Jenkyns (good old Welsh family), when he importuned 
her to relax her rule in his favour, and even go so far 
as making the vast experiment of marriage with him as 
her partner. "There is no earthly hurry." 

"No, but perhaps a heavenly one," he had inanely 
replied. 

"I may never marry at all. Girls, economically, don't 
need to marry as they used to, and at any rate I am 
independent so far as money goes." 

"So the way is clear for you to marry for love." 

"I don't think I shall ever fall in love." 

"Then take a man you like — and you like me?" 
Everard was not at that time sufficiently far golie in love 
to make him inattentive to, and unappreciative of the use 
and value of "cheek," in discussing such matters with 
his princess. 

"Yes, I like you; but, as you know, I don't love you. 
And I'm so made that I must be quite sure in my own 
mind that I am absolutely, positively incapable of loving 
madly before I let myself go with any one, even you. 
Don't you see, in the interests of morality, one must 
be sure of oneself, or there might be catastrophe, with 
a strong nature like mine ? " 

"No," said Everard patiently and earnestly. "There 



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6 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

would, I am sure, be no danger of that with you. Your 
husband might feel perfectly safe in your hands." 

"Thanks. Why do you say that?" 

"Because the power to flirt never implies the power 
to love, I am afraid." 

"Well, Everard, you can't say that I flirt with you ! " 
she exclaimed noisily. 

"Oh, no. Your knowing that I am desperately, dully 
serious about you protects me a little, and you do pay 
me the doubtful compliment of taking no trouble to 
attract me. You honestly never put your best foot fore- 
most with me, or pose like a heroine to your most 
humble valet." 

"Yes," Alice agreed, laughing a little bitterly. "I 
promise you never to encourage you in any way. I 
would let you see me with my hair in curlers, if I wore 
them 1 Anything to convince you of the purity of my 
intentions. I simply will not have you say that I lead 
you on or encourage you." 

" My God, Alice 1 I don't say it ! I know well 

enough I am a d d fool and have nothing whatever 

to go on." 

"A fool to love me?" 

"A fool because I am a lonely man and don't like 
being a lonely man, and yet this feeling of mine towards 
you will keep me so, so far as I can see. I don't sup- 
pose I shall ever marry. I know I shan't. That's what 
you've done, Alice, and I may just as well go away and 
make my will in your favour, for I shall never have any- 
wife or child to leave my money to. I feel that it will 
be so." 

" Really, my poor Everard " — she tried very hard not 
to look flattered — " this is most sad. I couldn't have 
believed there was such fidelity left in this wicked world, 



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THE TELEGRAM 7 

and to tell you the truth I don't believe it possible, even 
now. I'm really not vain enough — if I am cruel." 

"Not so very vain, and not a bit cruel. I honestly 
believe if you thought you could get up any sort of 
feeling for me, you'd say so. You never will say it to 
me — but to some one else, I suppose. You are human 
like every one else. It's all rot about not being capable 
of loving ; every woman is or is able to think she is, and 
that's enough in a great many cases. Oh, you'll find 
the man sooner or later, and I — well, I shall wish you 
every happiness and be godfather to the kids. Nice 
little flirt's kids, with pretty hair like yours. Now, I'd 
better go away to the Temple and make that will, as 
I've quite made up my mind to die a bachelor." 

"Nonsense," said Alice sharply, more touched than 
she liked to own; "I won't even be friends with you if 
you go on like that. Leave things open. Not for me, 
of course. It must be quite understood that I don't 
accept any such sacrifice of your life as waiting for me 
would entail. Believe me, I know myself, and I know, 
somehow, deep down, that I shall never fall in love with 
you. That being the case, don't you think I should be 
really behaving rather badly if I allowed you to think 
that you could ever melt me by faithful service, and little 
things like that ? " 

"All right. Beggars don't choose. You shall have 
the faithful service all the same, and it shall not hope 
to melt you. Will that suit you ? " 

"We'll leave it at that, then," said Alice, permitting 
the young and promising barrister to kiss her hand, 
and devote his wits and energies and the rest of his life 
to her use. She could always find work for him. 

He did it all as he had said. He was thus able to 
be "about the house." That was his retaining fee. 



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8 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Whether it was painful to him or not in his present state 
of mind to see so much of Alice Darner, it was a fact 
that he did have to meet her continually. She sent little 
business-like notes round to his chambers nearly every 
day — short, sensible, not encouraging notes. He made 
all the arrangements for their journeys and their parties 
and their entertaining of their friends. He saw her 
mother and herself off to the Continent every year when 
they went to do their cure, was attentive at the carriage 
door, bought the railway literature, and pumped up the 
air cushions. He could always be counted upon to be 
odd man at a dinner party, and if it was humanly 
possible, and sometimes when it was inhumanly impos- 
sible, threw over any other important engagement that 
he might have had — important to himself, be it under- 
stood. His clerk thought he led a "dog's life." What 
Everard thought was never recorded. What Alice 
thought was simply this, that Everard liked doing little 
things for her and was by temperament a born bachelor, 
although he still cultivated that touching delusion 
that he was lonely and wanted a companion. It was 
only that he wanted her, and seeing her this way, every 
day off and on, was really the pabulum his soul cried 
for ; other and more full-blooded men would not have 
been content with so merely spiritual a sustenance. At 
any rate, he never showed any tendency to stray from 
the portal and outer courts of this austere temple of 
respectful worship. Alice had no cause for jealousy. 
Her victim never twisted or wriggled on the hook of her 
attraction, his ready smile on seeing her flourished as 
ever, only there was more "drawing " in it, as expressed 
by the hatchet lines of his mouth. In short, Everard 
grew thin. 
His chest was rather narrow. He coughed often and 



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THE TELEGRAM 9 

tiresomely. Lung symptoms seemed to be developing 
themselves there. Alice, out of gracious regard for 
him, had suggested his accompanying her mother and 
herself to the Riviera one winter, instead of seeing them 
off and falling back into the fog of Charing Cross as 
usual. He had refused on the score of his pressing 
work, promising, however, to wear a respirator on the 
very bad days. 

It was a pity he had not gone with them that time. 
For all that she was a flirt, and men were her material ; 
Alice didn't know them at all. She met a man out at 
Cap Martin, a man Everard would have seen through at 
a glance. This common adventurer made love to her; 
he managed to engage the poor flirt's affections. There 
was nothing in it, no magnetism. He was a better flirt 
than she was, that was all, and while Alice had money, 
he had none. 

She returned, and confided her woes. Everard had 
his work cut out for him. He interviewed this handsome 
predatory person, and succeeded in retrieving Alice's 
letters for her. It was a supreme bit of service, and 
Alice was truly grateful to him. The wretch went out 
of her life, leaving her in a rather deplorable condition 
of nerves and mind. 

And Everard threw himself into the situation as no 
man who is not deeply attached to a woman unpictur- 
esquely lovesick for another could have done. He 
visited her every day, and comforted and consoled her 
by allowing her to talk about it all. Alice's grief 
furnished the theme for many a dreary summer's after- 
noon, when Everard used to take her up the river to 
distract her mind. It was a trip she had always firmly 
refused to take with him in the old days on the score 
of propriety, an excuse that masked dread of boredom. 



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io TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Boredom was not in it now — it was acute tragedy. Poor 
Alice forgot all propriety when once she was towed well 
out into mid stream. There she gave way and allowed 
the echoes of Datchet and Laleham to echo with her 
sobs. For she had been awfully hard hit. Once, indeed, 
Everard remembered, but with no pleasurable sense of 
a lover's guerdon gained, she had leaned forward in the 
boat with the abandon of despair and kissed her patient 
confidant. It was the only woman's kiss Everard had 
ever received in his life, and it had tasted of salt tears ! 
Still, it was a love symbol, the nearest Alice could do 
in the line he wished, or had wished, for perhaps he did 
not now desire her quite so urgently as he had done. 

Everard had never been handsome at the best of times, 
but that summer season rang the final knell of his good 
looks. His crow's feet and his cheek and jaw lines were 
awful — Alice herself noticed them. 

" I believe it is you, Everard, who are going to break 
down now ! " she said to him once when it was all over, 
her misbegotten love buried fathoms deep, and she cared 
to look round her a little and notice what other people 
were doing. 

The very violence of her passion had perhaps caused 
the flame to burn itself out in this young lady of the 
world, this parlour warrior, this heroine of a hundred 
ball-room fights. At any rate, her emotional crisis 
passed away, leaving her who was already hard a little 
harder than before to Everard's business precautions 
and his adroit playing of animated safety-valve to the 
deserted one. Alice, luckily for her, had not needed to 
confide in a member of her own sex. 

Her zest for "the noble game" of flirtation had died 
down, too. She was less interested in men, and rather 
more interested in herself than she had been, and con- 



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THE TELEGRAM u 

descended to enjoy a party, even if she came away from 
it without the tendrils of a heart of sorts reaching after 
her. Her superficial bloom returned ; she had never 
lost, only temporarily mislaid it. She was a fundament- 
ally good-looking woman, with neat, regular features, 
a good figure and perfect constitution to fall back on. 
To Everard's satisfaction she now proved the validity of 
these fine assets of beauty. 

But she had spoken a true word in jest. Everard 
Jenkyns went and had a bout of brain fever. He was 
popularly supposed to have broken down from over- 
work. 

Alice Darner and her mother were most kind and 
solicitous, and as fussy about him as they could be 
without setting the public tongue a-wagging. Alice 
now worshipped on the altar of convention again, and 
would not have been seen up the river with Everard or 
near his rooms in Paper Buildings for anything. Her 
mother was old and unwieldy. So they "wrote." They 
were quite careful — but as it was A old friends opined that 
Miss Darner was going to settle down and take up with 
her old and tried suitor. When taxed with this by the 
ill-bred privileged she maintained boldly that there was 
nothing in it, that she and Mr. Jenkyns thoroughly 
understood each other. So they did. Everard was 
grateful without any expectation of favours to come, and 
thanked her prettily for grapes and books and things. 

He recovered, and went about his own business as 
usual. Alice's business was not pressing just now, so 
the two rather lost sight of each other, Alice holding 
him in reserve for future extremity. She supposed, some- 
times aloud, that he was "busy getting on " and making 
up for the time lost in his illness. There could be no 
woman in it? 



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12 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

" Rather a wreck — poor old Jenks ! " his friends 
observed with affection, for he was a general favourite 
with men, and most unfairly persisted in attributing his 
state, not to the illness he had undergone, but to Alice 
Darner's fast-and-loose playing. She heard this, but 
tossed her head, confident in the good understanding 
that subsisted between her and her slave. 

"I have never encouraged Everard. He knows I 
haven't," she declared to her mother. 

"He says so. I think you have been quite horrid to 
him, Alice ! " was the old lady's single solitary pro- 
nouncement on the situation. She said this lying on her 
bed during what was to prove her last illness. Alice was 
gentle and kind, but repressed all sentimental leanings 
on the part of the invalid, who had a mother's natural 
wish to see a vagrant-hearted daughter settled in love 
and marriage before she died. 

"Mother, how often must I tell you that Everard — 
Mr. Jenkyns — and I understand each other?" she re- 
peated coldly. She had never chosen to call Everard 
by his Christian name, though her mother, who was fond 
of him, always insisted on doing so, and Everard 
obviously liked it, and clung to this side entry into the 
intimacy of Alice's family. It did not matter. Alice 
and he, as before said, understood each other, and old 
ladies, every one knows, have a way of attaching them- 
selves to young men, and selecting their daughters' 
suitors for them by the light of their own predilections. 

And now, her dear, silly old mother was dead and 
buried, and the proud, sensible daughter sat all alone 
in the big Seymour Street drawing-room, with the three 
large windows that needed so much stuff for their 
curtains, and the beautiful Adams mantelpiece whose 



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THE TELEGRAM 13 

shelf Alice could hardly see over. The Darners had 
only been in the house a year; it was freehold, and 
Alice's. It was rather a large and dreary abode for one 
young woman to inhabit permanently, yet the young 
woman thought she meant to do so ! 

A companion, she sadly supposed, in that case must 
be procured sooner or later — later, preferably; if she 
could have her way, not at all ! 

Alice was nearly forty, though she looked younger. 
Why should she not use her age for all it was worth and 
establish herself on the easy footing of years of dis- 
cretion ? Nay, there would be complications there ; her 
womanly instincts rebelled against the aspersion of " dis- 
cretion " and the constant assertion of her maturity 
which would be involved in her adoption of that attitude. 
She would be asked to play chaperon herself, she would 
have to "dress old." No, she looked so young for her 
age^ it would be ridiculous, when she could as easily 
carry the other theory through and pose as a breakable, 
compromisable commodity. 

She must make up her mind to accept the duenna — 
she must get in a woman to quarrel with ! It came very 
hard ! She had been used to going about alone and 
receiving guests by herself in this house; for the last 
year Mrs. Darner had been unable to dine down or pre- 
side at her own table. She appeared beautifully capped 
and lappeted, to set the seal of chaperonage for a few 
minutes before dinner, and then prettily said good-night 
to her young guests when dinner was announced. Alice 
was quite equal to it, and always invited another woman, 
preferably married, to her charming dinners. 

A companion would, by the conditions of her office, 
take part in every function, "quiet" dinners as well as 
noisy ones. It would be far worse than a husband, for 



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i 4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

a husband would at least leave the tea-hour free. All 
Alice's serious tete-h-tetes had been used to come off 
then, in the little room off the stairs, that was really part 
of the hall and in no way shut off, but so delightfully 
private. Little, soft, rosy cosy late teas had been 
Alice's great social weapon; all the more fetching were 
these free and easy interviews in that she wasn't in the 
least like an American, though she did see young men 
alone, with a mother stowed away somewhere in the 
upper fastnesses of the house. 

This problem of the companion was associated with 
the first glimmering in Alice Darner's mind, of the pos- 
sibility of a husband's suiting at this juncture. The 
notion of a companion precipitated him. He came in by 
the door of convenience. 

A husband ! Well, who was it wanted to marry her 
at that moment ? 

Men's names, long shelved, came into her mind, but 
not Everard's. Like the poor, she had him always with 
her. He was always available, but the others, unac- 
countably enough, did not rush into the arena of her 
requirements at once. 

She must be growing old ! Did people think her old ? 
She had not noticed that they did, she could see no sign 
of "the coming of the crows' feet/' of which this "back- 
ward turn of beaus' feet " was supposed to be ominous. 
For surely, a year ago, plenty of potential husbands lay 
ready to her hand ? . . . 

The signs of age, if there were any signs, were on the 
outside. Alice, internally, felt as fit as ever. She was 
still game for anything in the way of social folly, she 
could sit up as late as any one and dozed off happily the 
moment she got home and her head touched the pillow. 
She did not have to read in bed or play "patiences" to 



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THE TELEGRAM 15 

induce sleep. Her figure showed no fatal early inclina- 
tion to "spread," she didn't know what it was to "sit 
over a fire," and she proudly refused to avoid lobster 
salad or anything else indigestible at supper. . . . 

Unless, indeed, the craving for marriage itself was a 
sign of age, a subtle token of the need for support, the 
birth of an instinct for clinging ? 

She rose and looked at herself in the old, unbecoming 
Empire mirror that Everard had got for her at a sale 
at Christie's once, for he was a connoisseur. No, very 
few lines, no look of fatigue, even in a bad glass ! And 
as much colour in her hair, that poor Everard admired 
so, as ever there was ! 

Poor dear Everard ! . . . No, not poor dear Everard. 
He had been growing rather slack lately, and forgot her 
flowers and fish and game now and then. He had been 
kind, of course^ and considerate over her mother's death, 
had continually called to inquire, though the presence 
of authorized relations in the house had rendered his 
visits nugatory as far as she was concerned. Alice was 
formal about death. She had seen much of it. Still, 
she had liked to see his card in the hall, though unable 
to ask him to come in because of Aunts Polly and 
Gertrude. It had been an awful, unmentionable time, 
the sort of life that everybody must lead at times, when 
Death is in the house; but now it was over and the 
aunts had gone home, making her promise to give them 
a month at Taunton next week, when she had got things 
a little straight and done seeing lawyers. And that was ' 
over, too. Her nerves, that had been a little upset, 
though she had expected her mother's death, had righted 
themselves, too. She cried about her mother every day, 
but only once in the day, and she began to think she 
should like to see some one who wasn't "family." Why 



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16 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

should she not begin with Everard? When the com- 
panion had come, or the husband, she would have very 
little opportunity for tete-&-t$tes with him. Unless he 
was that husband ? Well, we should see ! . . . 

She settled that it was to be to-morrow, a quite im- 
promptu invitation. If it were ceremonious she could 
not have him alone, and she wanted him alone. She set 
about ordering a nice little dinner for him, consonant 
with his tastes, which unluckily she did not know. 
Everard had dined in Seymour Street before, but only 
on big formal occasions, never alone, so far as she 
remembered. 

Everard replied in fairly good time. He did not 
say he was previously engaged — for he knew that she 
would never forgive him for not throwing the other 
people for her — but ill. At least, not ill, but with a Very 
bad cold. As the dinner, she had said, was quite 
informal, might he ask her to postpone it a day or two 
until he had a little got the better of his cough, which 
would make him a rather tiresome guest, apart from the 
danger of chill, to which he found himself more liable 
than formerly. He would like to suggest Saturday 
night — his birthday ? . . . 

"What a funny old-maidish letter," was Alice's com- 
ment; "all about his cold and that! I never knew 
Everard notice a cold before? I suppose a man gets 
finnicky, living so much alone. He's no exception to 
the rule. I'll have to wake him up a little. " 

His cool deferring of her invitation afforded him just 
that touch of masterful self-assertiveness Everard had 
always lacked in his dealings with this young woman. 
She now firmly made up her mind to marry him, that 
is, if he continued to carry things off so well. He would 
be better than a companion, and — there seemed to be 
nobody else ! 



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THE TELEGRAM 17 

At a quarter to eight on Saturday evening she was all 
ready, dressed in black and looking very handsome, on 
one side of the brightly burning fire, for there was a 
slight touch of frost in the air. Her senses were alert, 
she found herself actually listening for the sound of his 
hansom driving up to the door. Quite loverlike, she 
thought, with a little laugh, to herself ! She remem- 
bered the last sentence in Everard's old-maidish letter, 
which she passed over on first reading. He had in- 
formed her that this was his birthday. She welcomed 
this as a touch of sentiment — the sentiment she had not 
in the old days been solicitous to cultivate in him, but 
had carelessly let die. She wished she could remember 
exactly how old he was to-day ? If she had been able 
to allude to it it would have pleased him. . . . 

No use, she could not recapture the knowledge. She 
supposed he might be somewhere about forty ? And he 
was late ! How dared he be late, for her ? Was there 
a fog perhaps ? 

She went to the window, parted the heavy curtains, and 
looked out. Rather misty — but not enough to prevent 
Everard from keeping time, if he had started early 
enough to dress! How rude if he hadn't? She 
remained drumming on the pane with her long, slender 
fingers, looking down into the empty roadway. 

She had not heard the door of the drawing-room 
open, but suddenly, before she had time to turn away 
from the window, Everard stood beside her with his 
handkerchief held up to his face, a familiar gesture of 
his for which she had often reproved him. 

"How are you?" she asked him, rather frigidly. 
"What a draught you seem to have brought in with 
you ! " 

"May I shut the door?" Everard said, suiting his 
action to the words. 



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18 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Come to the fire, won't you ? You are cold." 

She spoke more cordially, but, in spite of her definite 
intention to propose herself to Everard that evening, the 
curious sense of physical alienation which she knew now 
had held them apart all these years, returned to her with 
tenfold vigour. Her instinct had been right. Physical 
leanings counted for something, and there was no real 
affinity between them. Alice shivered a little, for she 
was a sensible, business-like woman, and she firmly 
meant to over-ride the absurd and awkward shrinking, 
and marry him. Her mind once made up, she never 
went back. 

He was holding his thin, blue-veined hands to the 
blaze. His eyes seemed to avoid hers. 

"Yes, that's right," she said. "I hope you have got 
a good appetite? I have ordered such a nice little 
dinner for you." 

" How kind of you ! But really, I eat very little 
except fish. My doctor has cut me down remorselessly." 

"And do you attend to him? You never 
used." 

" I have to attend to his orders. I am in rather a bad 
way, Alice. The base of one lung is quite solid . . . 
and the other is gone." 

"Nonsense! I believe you're as right as I am, 
barring this little bit of a cold, that you'll soon get rid 
of. You haven't coughed once since you were in the 
room, do you know ? I fancy that living alone as you 
do, you go and get ideas about yourself, and then rush 
out and call in a doctor who frightens you." 

"May be," he said slowly. "Loneliness certainly 
doesn't improve one's perspective. And I haven't been 
inside any one else's house for a month." 

"There now, what did I say? And what do you do, 



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THE TELEGRAM 19 

when you are at home? Sit over the fire and grizzle, 
"and think of your sins — and mine, eh?" 

" Not yours — much ! " said he, with a chilling effect 
of partial forgiveness which benumbed Alice, whose 
fighting spirit was up in arms to bring him to her feet 
again. 

The maid announced dinner, and Alice took his recal- 
citrant arm, which gave her the sense of being glued 
to his side. On the way downstairs she thought, " Poor 
dear, he will want civilizing all over again ! " 

"You'll drink champagne?" she suggested, when 
they were both seated. 

"No, water, please." He added, speaking to the 
maid, "Thanks, no soup ! " 

He allowed a helping of fish to be placed on his plate, 
but he did not eat a mouthful, that Alice could see. 

The dreary dinner progressed. Alice Darner ate for 
two, and every now and then looked furtively at the 
man she had made. 

It was her fault; she saw it now. This man had 
been her slave ; she had been his inhuman master. She 
had laid him on the rack, she had starved his heart, for 
bread she had given him a stone. This was what their 
famous understanding had amounted to; the ruin of a 
man, a pale, thin, hectic mask, sitting opposite her, 
pretending to eat — the play of his thin wrists that 
manipulated his knife and fork drove her frantic — his 
sullen eyes refusing to meet hers, as in tones that only 
faintly represented the rich, soft, legal, measured voice 
she used to know, he responded gently but dully to all 
her conventional openings, and allowed the subjects she 
started so painstakingly to drop one by one. What 
would the servants think ? Little pearly drops of dismay 
and effort broke out on her own white forehead; the 
c 2 



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20 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

effort she was making was too much for even her social 
fortitude. Yes, she knew she had behaved badly to 
him, but he might let her down more easily I Vexing 
of him I For what she had to do, must be done, in 
spite of difficulties. 

The last course had been removed, two punctilious, 
slightly shocked maids had disappeared, and the couple 
were left alone over the walnuts and the wine. 

She spoke to him quite crossly, in a voice she could 
hardly command. "Aren't you interested in anything, 
Everard?" 

"Yes, dear, in some things — for instance in your 
calling me by my Christian name — for the first time," 
he replied quietly. 

Alice felt uncomfortable. Such a direct thrust from 
this petrifaction suggested that he had seen through 
her, who hardly realized herself, and what she was 
doing. 

"Oughtn't I?— I forgot." 

"Oh, don't apologize, it doesn't matter. ... I wanted 
you to badly, once, do you remember? Strange, when 
it does come — one is more or less past caring " 

"Coffee?" she asked. "I make it myself now, as you 
see!" 

"Yes, please." 

She made it. She handed it. She even let her fingers 
graze his as she passed him the cup. It was literally 
the first time she had ever practised her own special art 
of flirtation in Everard's connection. 

Then there fell a silence between them. The patent 
coffee machine ceased to bubble. Its duties were sped. 
. . . Alice, sipping a restorative draught of the tonic 
liquid, broke the silence bravely. She felt that she owed 
it to him to take the initiative. 



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THE TELEGRAM 21 

"I am feeling very lonely — now," she said 
softly. 

"Poor child, you must be," he answered gravely. 

"And I think I — I understand a little better how you 
must have felt all these years." 

He lifted his fishy eyes for the first time to hers. 
"Yes, but I am used to it, now." 

"But, Everard, it hasn't done you any good?" 

"No, I daresay not." 

"Everard, do you think — now — do you believe we 
— you and I, I mean, would have got on together?" 

" How do you mean ? In what relation ? " 

" I mean — in the usual relation — if I had wanted what 
you wanted?" 

"Well, you know, I thought so, then." 

"Not now?" 

"No, not now. Did I not tell you that I had grown 
philosophical? Whatever is, is good." 

"Oh, dear I Then you tell me that you think it is 
good, your living alone, with not a soul to talk to, or 
exchange an idea with, no one to look after you when 
you are ill, as you are now, but just to sit mooning over 
a dying fire " 

The ghost of a shrug was vouchsafed her. "Oh, I 
keep my fire up, and I mix my own grog and drink it, 
and warm my own slippers. It isn't so bad." 

" Everard ! " She rose to her feet and he imitated 
her, supposing that a move to the drawing-room was 
contemplated. "No, I am not going up yet, not till 
we have had this out. You do make it very difficult 
for me. It is as if you had lost the key — you will not 
understand A demi~mot!" 

"Why should it be & demumot? " he repeated after 
her, catching, however, none of her fire. He sat down 



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22 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

again and motioned her to do the same. Then he spoke, 
dully, but very clearly, 

"Let us talk quietly, and not get excited over it. A 
man in my condition has no time for vagueness. I do 
understand, quite well, and I will show you that I do. 
You are willing to marry me now?" 

"Yes," she cried breathlessly. "Yes, poor Everard! 
And you — you don't want v me to any more?" 

"I want nothing I Don't think of me. Let us con- 
sider only you. Now tell me, would this marriage be 
of any use to you ? " 

"Use to me to be married to you, Everard?" She 
started. 

"Sorry, but I can only put it from the point of view 
of utility. My personal desires are dead." 

"Ah, I killed them." 

"Yes, my dear, you killed them. I can't pretend to 
any extravagant feelings of joy at what I suppose 
we must call your capitulation. You know, they give 
better terms to beleaguered fortresses the sooner they 
surrender? You, Alice, in your pride and impreg- 
nability left it too long. The wine got musty in the 
bottle, the cord got frayed and rotten. I am no good 
to you or anybody. My life is done. I thought all 
this out as I lay there — wrote some of it down even. 
I never thought I should get a chance of telling it 
all to you in person. I could not rest. In my 
delirium " 

" Delirium ! Oh, Everard, what nonsense ! " 

He put her exclamations aside. "Well, I have told 
it you now, and I shall rest in peace." 

" If it's any consolation to you, you have had a good 
scold — a good go at me ! " Alice cried angrily, adding 
with bitterness, "And plus the satisfaction of refusing 
me ! " 



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THE TELEGRAM 23 

"But not at all!" he said, turning surprised, lack- 
lustre eyes on her. "If you think a marriage with me 
would do you any earthly good, you shall have it. I 
ought to have made that clear " 

"I wanted to do good to you!" she wailed. 

"Too late for that. I won't pretend, even to salve 
your conscience, Alice, that I care anything at all about 
it. Besides, your conscience has no need of salving. 
You were perfectly right not to marry me, in your 
heyday and mine, if you could not love me; you are 
very kind and perfectly in order to suggest it now, as 
a way of making me useful to you, as you have done in 
the past. I am at your service now, as ever. I am 
reserved to your use, as good as married to you already, 
though not you to me, and quite ready to go to church 
with you to-morrow, if you decide that we shall do so. 
I am your property. . . . Only, my dear, it is a pity 
you tied me up in brown paper and left me on the shelf 
so long. Fatal delay ! Unused, I deteriorated ! You 
have had me warehoused so many years that now, when 
you choose to untie me and take me down, you find that 
you have to make allowance for depreciation of stock. 
I think I wrote that to you — or said it ! . . . How it did 
amuse Mrs. Clarkson ! " 

"Who's Mrs. Clarkson?" she asked through her 
tears. 

He did not answer, but rose, and took her in his arms. 
Pale flickers of posthumous triumph lighted up his kind, 
lined face. Weakly victorious, he enfolded her, and she 
shrunk and shivered out of his embrace. 

"What is it, dear?" 

"Nothing, oh, nothing 1 Only, I don't believe I can 
marry you, Everard, after all I " 

He did not ask her why, and she could hardly have 
told him that the momentary contact had affirmed the 



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24 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

sense of physical aversion she had always thought she 
felt for him. Now she was sure. Oh, what was she 
to do ? . . . 

She stood timorously away from him, as it were freed 
from the clasp of a corpse. How could she tell him 
that? And then she reflected consolingly that accord- 
ing to his own words marriage meant so little to him 
now, that she need perhaps never kiss him when they 
were married. 

Her colour returned a little as she formulated this 
evasion. . . . Many a conscientious woman has forced 
herself before now to marry a wreck, to pay conscience 
money. 

There was a good fire burning, she motioned him to 
one of two leather-covered chairs drawn up on opposite 
sides of the fireplace. "It's warm here. We won't go 
upstairs. I am really getting rather , frightened about 
you, Everard. I was incredulous at first, but I do 
believe now, that you have been ill." 

"Yes, I have been very ill." 

"But why come out? Why didn't you send an 
excuse — ask me to come to you ? " 

" Would you have come ? Well, as a matter of fact, 
a telegram was sent you. Mrs. Clarkson said she had 
sent it." 

" Mrs. Clarkson — your landlady — your bedmaker ? 
Oh, dear, how unkind you must have thought me 1 " 

"No, I don't know that I thought anything about it. 
I said she might send it, and then it passed out of my 
mind entirely. Everything did go clean out all at once, 
somehow . . . it's a most unusual sensation — very like 
death, I should think." 

"Everard, I believe you ought to be in bed now, you 
ought not to be here — pleasant as it is. Go home, and 



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THE TELEGRAM 25 

I'll come and nurse you to-morrow. I can safely do 
that. I am — engaged to you ! " She spoke with mouth 
awry, putting the greatest constraint upon herself. 

He smiled. "Awfully kind of you, dear, but I've 
got a nurse already. Mrs. Clarkson is a nurse." 

" Everard ! you're dreaming ! Do you mean a white- 
capped creature, with starched cuffs? How could you 
be here if that were so ? " 

"I don't know, but I am here, you see. Mrs. Clark- 
son certainly did send you a wire to say I couldn't 
come. She asked you to come to me, I believe, though 
I forbade her. As I told you" — he sighed — "I forgot 
it all. . . ." 

"But then why have you come, and why haven't I 
got the wire ? " 

"Wrongly addressed, I fancy. I was too ill to speak 
much. She looked the address up in my book and I 
have only your old one there." 

"It shows how I've neglected you." 

"But it's as well you didn't come. The nurse is 
excellent. These hired people do best because they 
have no feelings, whether it's merely putting on a 
poultice, or finally laying you out " 

"Oh, don't, Everard!" 

He rose. He looked preoccupied. 

"It's after midnight. Do you realize how late we 
have been talking, right into the night? The daylight 
will surprise us in a minute ! . . . Oh, dear me ! I 
must be off." He rose, and stood, wavering like a wind- 
blown taper. "Good-night, dear Alice, I shan't forget 
you have kissed me — once in your life. Oh, no, twice ; 
once on the river — that day, the twelfth of July. I 
loved you — I wish you had loved me too ! " 

"I; did — I do," she averred, her lips chattering. 



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26 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Too late ! " said he, taking a woollen comforter out 
of his pocket. 

"Everard, I don't think you are fit to go home alone. 
Let me send some one with you. Or stay here, the 
servants are not gone to bed, and there's a spare room, 
slept in only last night. Aunt Polly " 

"And your reputation?" 

"I'll risk that," she said. "I've behaved too badly 
to you not to make you some amends." 

"But it's all nonsense. I am all right. Strength 
has been given me " 

"How funnily you talk! Well, since you will be 
foolhardy and go back to your nurse — is she pretty? 
You know I don't believe in her. You are thinking of 
your landlady, who's been mothering you a little, as 
she should." She put out her hand and rang the bell. 
"A hansom, please, for Mr. Jenkyns." 

"You shouldn't have done that," he said. "I meant 
to walk." 

"Well, you aren't going to be allowed to walk ! You 
must take no risk. Have a good night's rest, and be 
well enough to marry me to-morrow — by special licence." 
She looked up in his face with terror-stricken audacity. 
How could she do it ! 

"Would you really?" He was out in the hall by 
now, and the maid was whistling for a cab. "Well, 
we'll see ! " 

"I'll come to you at eleven in Paper Buildings. I 
know the way. I've been there once." 

"Dear Alice, how unmaidenly you are grown all of 
a sudden ! I like it, though. It is some compensa- 
tion " 

"But will you really marry me if I come?" 

"If I can," he answered gravely. 



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THE TELEGRAM 27 

The hansom had come rattling up. She gave a twist 
to the comforter. "Keep it well over your mouth. . . ." 

"I will kiss your hand first." 

She controlled herself. His touch was pain to her. 
She wailed, as the hall door closed — 

"Oh, I don't love him ! He is dead. I have killed 
him ! Til marry him, that is my vow ! " 

The strayed telegram was brought her next morning 
on the tray with her tea. It had been as Everard had 
surmised, wrongly addressed to the old house. It ran — 

"Mr. Jenkyns unable to go to you to-night. 111. Come 
if prefer." 

"She must have been in a rare fright when she wrote 
that, whoever she is ! " thought Alice, who could not 
bring herself to believe in the presence of a nurse in 
82 Paper Buildings. 

Her exaltation of last night had left her. Everard 
was such a wreck, poor dear ! Every bit of charm, and 
he never had much, had departed and left him sear, 
dry, stupid and unsympathetic. But she meant to marry 
him, and repair her sins, and be able to live without 
a companion. Even an invalid husband was better 
than a hired solacium. She would go and see him this 
morning, but of course they could not really be married 
at once, out of hand, like that. In a week or so, after 
a few preparations had been made and when he had been 
nursed up and made to look a little less ghastly. She 
could not allow a ghost to lead her to the altar. Then 
they would go off somewhere warm for the honeymoon, 
to the Riviera or Egypt, and Everard would revive under 
the combined influences of sun and agreeable society, 
and love — that is, if he was still capable of feeling the 
kindly glow of a delayed, but at last gratified passion. 



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28 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Perhaps he was not quite so dead after all ; perhaps 
in time she would find herself able to submit to his 
kisses without a politely suppressed shudder ? Though 
she could easily account for that symptom of hers. 
Starved physically and mentally, as he seemed to be, 
what wonder that all the magnetism had gone from 
him ? Alice, none other, would nurse him back to life, 
make a charming, attentive, affectionate husband of him, 
one whose kisses she would get not to mind so much. 

She drove down to the Temple and dismissed her 
carriage at the gate on the Embankment, and walked up, 
quite unnecessarily, for Everard's rooms in Paper Build- 
ings had a road in front where a carriage might stand. 
But she did not mind walking. It was a lovely 
morning. The famous fountain in the court was play- 
ing merrily, and suggested springing hopes of all sorts 
— and possibilities of revival. She walked along to 
Everard's rooms with a light step, laughing a little to 
herself at the thought that she was going to earn for 
him the reputation of being "a dog." She did not 
suppose many young ladies sought out the dry student 
lawyer in his rooms 1 His landlady, or laundress, 
whichever it was, would be shocked, and a good thing 
too. His character was altogether too immaculate, and 
a picturesque smudge or so would improve it in the eyes 
of men. Alice had all the sweet, headlong depravity of 
mind of the excessively innocent. Using her tortoise- 
shell pince-nez, she read the name of Everard Jenkyns 
printed on the wall on the right-hand side of the open 
door of number eighty-two, and plunging into the dim- 
ness, began to ascend. She met a man on the first 
landing who looked like a doctor. He seemed in a 
hurry to get to his hansom, which she had observed 
standing there. He merely peered in her face and 



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THE TELEGRAM 29 

passed on before she could ask him if he was the doctor, 
and if so, how Mr. Jenkyns was? 

She went on ascending till she found the right door, 
knocked, and stood there, breathless. ... 

A foolish fear assailed her as she waited. She found 
herself dreading the first sight of Everard as he would 
appear on opening the door to her; she remembered 
with annoyance the poor, lank, gawky face, which 
always made her think, as she used to tell her mother, 
of a boy's compendious clasp-knife, with all the blades 
open I He would smile, of course, and look pleased to 
see her ; it was a strong step for haughty Alice Darner, 
whom he had sighed for so long, to visit a man in his 
rooms at half-past eleven and ask him to marry her ! 

He was a long time coming ! . . . She rang again, 
more firmly. . . . 

The door was opened, by a nurse. Everard had not 
been raving, then I He was probably in bed ? . . . 
She formally muttered his name. 

The nurse seemed to have been expecting her. 
Murmuring, "You would like to see him, Ma'am ? " she 
led the way into the sitting-room, out of which the 
bedroom obviously opened. The door was ajar. The 
nurse did not stop. . . . 

"But not in there ! " Alice stammered. 

A strong note of disapprobation pierced in the 
woman's voice as she turned round sharply — 

"Why not? He's dead. You're not going to 
faint?" 

"Oh, no," said the poor girl, striving to adjust herself 
to these new and unexpected circumstances. Like a 
proud, plucky automaton she entered the bedroom, and 
looked on the form that was faintly outlined under the 
sheet, so thin Everard had grown. She had good 



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30 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

nerves, and could always bear shocks well. But an 
immense, searching pity, a world of value for the dead 
man, combined with self-depreciation, filled her, and she 
wept silently. Her noble calmness and self-restraint 
won the admiration of the nurse, who had been con- 
demning the heartless creature wholesale for having left 
her sweetheart to die alone as she had done. 

"What was it, Nurse?" she asked. 

"Double pneumonia. Collapse. I telegraphed to 
you, Miss — you are Miss Darner, I believe? He 
objected, but when once he became unable to speak, I 
took it upon myself. I thought you would want to be 
here." 

"Of course. But I have only just got it." 

The nurse accepted the amende. She could not realize 
that Alice was struggling to form a comment on the 
apparent inconsistency of a man sick unto death being 
able to dine with her, hoping at the same time that dates 
would be proved not to fit and all be normally explained. 
She stammered something vague as the nurse laid down 
the covering sheet, and disclosed the still face, looking, 
however, no more emaciated than Alice had seen it in 
life and no longer ago than last night. 

Alice was painfully aware of the tacit suggestion 
on the woman's part that she should bend down and 
kiss that waxen mask, and recoiled, though the nurse 
had said no word. 

"Oh, I can't kiss anybody dead. . . . It's awful of 
me, Nurse, but I can't ! " 

"Some can't! " said the nurse resignedly. And this 
girl was the poor gentleman's fiancee, so she had 
understood? . . . 

She was a little pacified when Alice unfastened the 
bunch of lilies of the valley that she was wearing, and 



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THE TELEGRAM 31 

laid them on the dead man's breast. Then she turned 
away and dried her eyes. She was a beautiful creature, 
the nurse thought, and was conscious that the faulty 
young lady was slowly acquiring her sympathies. 

"When did he die ? When was it ? " 

"We don't know exactly, Miss. In these cases 

But he last spoke about seven." 

"What made you think of sending to me?" 

"Because, Miss, for days before, when he was wander- 
ing worst, he talked about you. We gathered, the doctor 
and I, that he was more or less engaged to you, Miss, 
but that you was rather too fond of putting him off. 
Said it had been going on for years, and that he was 
fairly worn out. So he was, poor man; he hadn't an 
ounce of flesh on his bones to spare " 

"Yes, but " the girl exclaimed impatiently, "I 

want to get at the facts. He died, you say, this morning 
at seven o'clock ? " 

"Spoke last at seven o'clock last night, Miss, I said. 
Died some time in the night, or, may be, directly after 
he did speak. At least, part of him may have died, as 
ignorant people seem to think. He was hardly breath- 
ing at a little before eight, but the last spark may have 
held on longer." 

"I suppose you know, Nurse, that he dined with me 
last night, at a quarter-past eight," said the girl stonily, 
looking away from the nurse's apathetic face, which 
changed at once, sympathetically; — 

"Miss, you're upset! You took it so calm at first. 
Have some brandy. You have had a shock. One 
understands " 

" He dined with me," Alice repeated obstinately. 

The nurse stared at her, and shrugged her shoulders. 
Poor girl ! She was evidently one of the outwardly 



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32 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

quiet ones, who smother the symptoms of disturbance, 
only to feel the shock more keenly. People take these 
things in such a variety of ways. The idea of the dinner 
party had got fixed in her mind by the shock ; she was 
unable now to let go the idea of Everard's keeping his 
engagement with her. She had received the telegram 
all right, of course, there could be no doubt of it, and 
some domestic reason had prevented her from respond- 
ing to the summons. Or, possibly, that same back- 
wardness and want of interest which had affected the 
smooth course of the engagement had been at work. 
She hadn't cared for him much, though she had been 
persuaded into giving her word. . . . 

In an even tone, calculated to restore the shattered 
nerves of the shaken girl, the nurse remarked — 

"Mr. Jenkyns' sister-in-law, the one that lives in 
France, will be here presently, to see about the funeral 
arrangements. He wanted you to have all his old china 
and books, Miss, he used to say so, and doubtless that 
will be done. . . ." 

But Alice Darner had gone resolutely across to the 
bed from which the two, in the course of conversation, 
had unconsciously deviated. 

She dexterously turned down the sheet, and stooping, 
performed the rite of love, the little act of devotion which 
she had refused him just before. What was she saying ? 
Mrs. Clarkson observed closely what she considered 
one of the curiosities of mental stress. 

"I kissed him last night, when he came to me. . . . 
So you see, whether I liked it or not, I did kiss a 
dead man 1 And it's no use minding now, is it ? " 

She kissed him repeatedly, with a pale semblance of 
passion. 

The nurse took her arm gently and led her away 



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THE TELEGRAM 33 

from the bed, and she submitted to be placed in a 
chair. 

"Miss, now you've done that, you'll feel better. I 
should go home if I were you. Take that hansom 
outside. It's the one you came in, perhaps — and you 
haven't paid him?" 

Alice signified a negative to this, helplessly, but 
allowed the nurse to pin her veil on for her. It hid 
her tear-stained face a little. Then the good woman 
led her downstairs and out on to the pavement. Sure 
enough, there was a hansom waiting there, and the 
nurse hailed the driver. 

Gruffly, he turned round, and stared at them. 

"And I say," he appeared to be remarking, "and I 
say, who's going to pay me my fare ? " 

"Why, the lady will, of course. Get in, Miss, I'll 
hold your dress away from the wheel." 

But the cabman was not satisfied, nor did he address 
himself to the task of resuming his drooping reins. He 
seemed to have had a shock too. 

"No, I didn't mean her. Who's going to pay me 
three bob for last night and for waiting 'ere ? . . ." 

"That's no affair of ours," replied the nurse cheer- 
fully. "You must take the lady — where to, shall I say, 
Miss?" 

Alice, crouching inside, mumbled the address of her 
home. 

The cabman swore. 

"No, I'm damned! You get out. I ain't a-going 
near that blasted house again for nobody 1 Took 
a fare from there last night, I did, and drove him 
here, and here I may stop till Domesday, I suppose, 
before I sees a shilling of his money ! 'Tain't 
right! . . ." 

D 



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34 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He was obviously drunk, but not dangerous, so the 
nurse thought. 

"Come, come ! " she expostulated. 

Alice, frightened, prepared to get out. 

"Oh, what's the matter?" she moaned. 

"Matter! Matter's this. I drove him here right 
enough, and pulls up where he told me — and my gentle- 
man doesn't get out, seems as if he was a-going to 
make a night of it in my cab. Drunk, I says to my- 
self, and I opens the trap, meaning to take my fare and 
clear him out, but Lord bless me — why, there wasn't 
no one there ! " 

"He'd got out, of course," said Mrs. Clarkson, "while 
you weren't looking." 

"' Bilked,' says I. And, thinks I, I'll just come and 
wait here till I sees my gentleman come down those 
stairs again." 

"You'll never see him come downstairs again," said 
the nurse, with a flash of inspiration, "except in his 
coffin ! Come, get on ! Take the lady where she wants 
to go." 

She thought of it all — afterwards . . . but then 
nurses see such queer things ! She had taken the cab- 
man's number. 



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D 2 



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THE OPERATION 

"Yes, I think that might hang a day longer. I can 
finish up the mince for my lunch, and you must do some- 
thing with the turkey legs for dinner. Let me see — and 
there's fish to-day. And then — well, suppose you make 
a savoury ? " 

"Master don't care for savouries, Ma'am ! " 

"A sweet, then. I don't care. And that's all, I 
think?" 

Mrs. Joe Mardell, in her neat morning shirt, coquet- 
ishly finished with a man-like tie, and the severity of her 
attire much modified by the bows and loops of waved 
hair that crowned her head, turned and was about to 
leave the dark basement of the little house in Kirriemuir 
Street, West Kensington, when a door in the upper 
regions banged. 

"There, he's off, and I wanted a cheque!" Mrs. 
Mardell observed with mild irritation. She glanced at 
the kitchen clock with a degree of confidence she did not 
place in the elegant time-keeper, cased in jewels, that 
hung on the front of her shirt. "Why, it's only half- 
past ten ? " 

"Master's early gone this morning," said the cook. 
"Gladys took his breakfast up only ten minutes ago." 
She paused, then summoning her courage, she asked — 

"Ma'am, are people usually buried on Christmas 
Day?" 

37 



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38 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

" Why, you silly woman, it depends on what day they 
die. Who's been dying ? " 

"I'll swear," said the woman eagerly, "that I saw a 
corpse being carried down the steps of number thirteen 
just over the street opposite nearly a week ago, and I 
reckon it back Christmas Day ! . . . It's been worrying 
me ever since. Yes, I saw the mourners and hearse and 
feathers and all — done quite proper. I was looking out 
of the front staircase window " 

"Neglecting your work, Vance? Serves you right. 
You saw Whiteley's sale cart, perhaps? You were 
looking sideways through the red panes, and glass, 
you know, refracts oddly. . . . Who lives at number 
thirteen ? " 

"Oddly enough, Ma'am, I don't know, though I 
mostly could tell you the navies of everybody in the 
street. I might ask one of the tradespeople — should 
I?" 

"Yes, do if you like. Brr ! " She shivered affectedly, 
strong in the pride of her health and good looks. "It 
seems a cold time to choose to be put into the ground ! 
One would sooner be cremated, this weather ! " 

Holding up her crisp befrilled skirts, the second wife 
of Joseph Mardell, the popular comic actor, who was 
just now drawing crowds to his Christmas extravaganza 
at the "Quality," made her way up from the dark base- 
ment to the abodes of light above. Noiselessly, she let 
fall behind her that swing door at the top of the staircase 
which effectively divided the world of society from its 
service, and exchanged stone and oil-cloth for soft carpets 
and silken curtains. It was a very pretty little house — 
her house. She admitted Joe into it. Her husband- 
lover, Joe. She had managed to keep him her lover. 
All wives should. She glanced, as she passed by, at 



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THE OPERATION 39 

the hat-stand in the hall. Joe had stupidly gone without 
his fur coat, though it was freezing. Or was it that it 
needed a stitch ? How careless of Gladys ! He had left 
his big umbrella too, for there it bulged in the rack, 
beside her own delicate silver-topped one. Careless Joe, 
willing enough to ignore the mere physical claims of the 
self he morally bowed to ! Moreover, he forced every 
one else to do so likewise. He must have his own way, 
and brooked no check where his mental desires were con- 
cerned. It was perhaps the secret of his sway over men 
— and women. 

She thought of him, Joseph Mardell, the greatly- 
sought-after, and hers, with complacent affection, 
glancing up consciously at the branch of mistletoe which 
was entwined with the square glass lamp that hung over 
the front door. Joe had passionately kissed her under 
the mystic bough, a week ago, for luck, on the first night 
of the successful piece. And luck had come, and seem- 
ingly remained with them. The booking was splendid. 
And they were rehearsing a more serious play that was 
to follow the Christmas jollity. Joe was so busy he 
didn't know where to turn for a spare five minutes. She 
did not complain, for if things went on like this they 
would be able to move out of West Kensington, where 
you couldn't get a smart parlour-maid to stop with you. 
Gladys and her finger-nails was a sore trial. 

She entered the dining-room, and her eyes sought the 
sideboard. Ah, Joe had had some sense after all, and 
had remembered to refresh the inner man before leaving, 
as the violated Tantalus betokened. He lay in bed late. 
He rarely breakfasted, and never with her. She rose at 
eight — on principle ; she could not afford to keep actors' 
hours and ruin her complexion. 

She stood pensively by the small piece of Sheraton 



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40 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

furniture before she opened a drawer and took out of it 
what she had come to seek. Last night's oranges and 
apples beamed there on a pretty dish. Joe's cigarette 
boxes, flung about, needed tidying up. The presentation 
silver bowl given to Joe by his fellow-actors on the occa- 
sion of his first marriage, shone in the centre with digni- 
fied lustre. They had chosen something quite different 
to present to him as a memento of his second venture. 
That was in her room now. The bowl had a dwarf fern 
in it now, but sometimes it ran over with punch, or was 
packed with roses. Another use was contemplated for 
it; if Joe and she were to have a baby, which, sadly 
enough, did not seem likely, the bowl would be used for 
the christening. 

Mrs. Mardell took a pretty little checked duster out of 
a drawer, and went upstairs to her drawing-room on the 
first floor. She carefully picked up an iridescent bead off 
the carpet, the spoil of the dress she had worn last night, 
and placed it on an ash-tray. She then proceeded to rub 
up the several minute objects on her silver-table, wishing 
heartily that she could afford to have them lacquered, 
and thus dispense with her daily task. So occupied, she 
looked wholly pretty and half domestic, a little soubret- 
tish, like those neat-aproned maids who flutter early 
about a stage-scene and usher in and lay the tables for 
tragedy. 

There was no harm in Florence Mardell. She was a 
smart, novel-reading, Sandown and Ranelagh going 
woman, easily dressed, easily amused, a little detached, 
perhaps, in her interests, and careless of the more serious 
issues of life, but quite willing to simulate and assume 
social crazes as they came up. She played a good game 
of Bridge. She glanced at the deep Reviews as well as 
the Windsor and Pearson's, and improved her mind on 



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THE OPERATION 41 

the slightest opportunity. You could always get her for ' 
a subscription lecture of sorts, and she quite approved of 
Female Suffrage, without, however, actively concerning 
herself in its propaganda. She never "fagged." She 
was always beautifully dressed in a severish, strapped, 
mock-manly style, and could wear successfully the very 
largest hats when they came in. 

She had been the widow of an officer, and had lived at 
Wimbledon in a big dull house standing in its own 
grounds. She had first set eyes on Joe Mardell playing a 
strong " Macheath " in The Beggar's Opera, to the most 
ineffective "Polly Peachum" of Julia Fitzgerald. Miss 
Fitzgerald was his wife ; had she but known it, it might 
have made a difference, but very likely it would not 
have. Then and there she had fallen in love with the 
actor across the footlights, impulsively, violently, madly, 
and she had not rested, being of an acquisitive, pug- 
nacious, predatory habit of mind, until she had per- 
suaded a journalistic friend of hers and his to bring 
about an introduction. With her effective crown of real 
golden hair, waved and curled in extremis, her clean, 
fresh suburbanity, she had fascinated "Macheath." He 
was known to be weak, volage, and full of moods. 
Florence was, on the contrary, strong and pertinacious, 
she had taken him in a mood, and let her love profit by 
it. With fond remorselessness she had driven him to 
drive his wife to divorce him. All this she had com- 
passed in her own calm detached way, as if unconscious 
of the larger issues she was stirring — another woman's 
happiness, a man's honour, and an actor's art, for Joe 
was a genius, and recognized to be one, in spite of, some 
people said because of, his strange limitations. A little 
man, almost a dwarf, he could play the burly Falstaff 
and the courtly Biron; he could write articles in the 



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42 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Reviews; he could hold supper-tables in a roar. Julia 
Mardell's happiness had been sacrificed, for she adored, 
and was known to adore, her husband. To oblige him 
she had condescended to make use of some of the more 
complicated and recondite cogs of the machinery of the 
English law of divorce, and had tamely surrendered, 
without humiliating him, one of the most fascinating 
men of the day to another woman. Yet Julia was quite 
as good-looking as Florence, if in a different style. She 
was the full-souled, full-breasted, large-eyed Junoesque 
female type, and only undertook the playing of a minx 
like Polly Peachum to suit Joe. Such a majestic walk as 
hers, such dark swimming eyes were of no avail to the 
actress who aspired to play one of the wayward mis- 
tresses of the highwayman. It was the measure of 
Julia's love and her power of self-abnegation. Joe was 
prepared to take the whole play on his own shoulders, 
only he must have a sympathetic woman to act with. 
He did find Julia sympathetic in those da^s when he 
loved her, and before the pretty widow from Wimbledon 
had leaned out of her box and shaken her golden locks 
at him. Then one day the two women met. Matters 
were arranged. Joe, susceptible, weak, hustled and 
busy, succumbed. . . . Lawyers acted for him. Julia 
was compliant: Florence "keen." Joe worked on and 
was divorced while rehearsing a new play. He himself 
never knew how it all happened ! 

There was a large signed photograph of Julia in Joe's 
study now, standing unframed, concave and dusty on 
the mantelpiece ; Joe had not dared, or cared, to give it 
a more polite or permanent abiding-place. Indeed, 
Florence had had some thoughts of removing it from its 
even so humble position ; her friends wondered how she 
could possibly bear to have it there for Joe to see every 



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THE OPERATION 43 

day ! But she was capricious. One never knew how 
she would take things. It was their expressed opinion 
which perhaps induced her to let it stay, curled up and 
drooping slavishly as time went on, and the dust and 
heat of the fire brought its proud head low. 

Florence bore Julia no grudge, she should think not, 
indeed ! Julia had been very good about it, had made 
no difficulties, but on the contrary, had smoothed and 
made easy the path of divorce for the man she loved. 

That is, if she really did care for Joe. She had been 
so terribly callous in her interviews; so full of zeal to 
give him his freedom. It was hardly human, so the 
woman who had profited by her action thought, and 
certainly not very womanly. Florence could not imagine 
herself allowing a cold business-like lawyer to dictate 
her a letter bidding Joe come back to her herewith; $ 
summons intended, of course, for ultimate publication. 
It disgusted Florence, this horrible business of sueing 
for restitution of conjugal rights ! Julia's formal peti- 
tion was refused by Joe in another cold letter, equally 
intended for publication. Florence had actually read the 
two inhuman missives printed together in the daily paper. 
Divorce had followed in due course. 

" Oh, you tamely died ! " Yes, little frivolous 
Florence, who had never read Tennyson, would have 
taken the advice of the Egyptian and would have "clung 
to Fulvia's waist, and thrust the dagger through her 
side." She was a true woman, like Cleopatra, and knew 
that the elemental passions, once raised, must have full 
mastery. A man all to oneself or nothing ! That was 
her philosophy. 

The feelings of the man in question ? The state of his 
affections? No matter! Florence did not see herself 
considering them, or taking any deadly sex insult lying 



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44 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

down. She considered that Julia's poor-spiritedness did 
really verge on meanness. She had accepted money 
from Joe — an allowance to enable her to leave the stage. 
Report said that she had grown stout. Report said that 
she had taken to drink. Lies probably, so generous 
Florence said. Nobody in Florence's world knew any- 
thing about Julia excepting Miss Walton, who had 
introduced them. And though the two women had con- 
tinued their intimacy, it was with the tacit agreement 
that the name of Julia should not be mentioned between 
them. There were plenty of other subjects to talk about. 
Miss Walton was, like everybody else, more than half 
in love with Joe. . . . Funny how they all were ! 
Rather nice; — for Joe's wife, since Joe did not bother 
with any of them. . . . 

Mrs. Mardell, after having polished the silver dili- 
gently, turned her attention to the room. She ordered 
the chairs, according to some abstruse social system of 
her own, and flicked her duster about feebly here and 
there. She did not feel very "fit." Rather queer, on 
the contrary ! All-overish ! She could not have told 
you what it was, but she was mysteriously conscious of 
something excessive — something outrageous, like severe 
pain in wait for her. She seemed to apprehend its near- 
ness instinctively, as a patient seated in the dentist's 
chair watches the eminent practitioner's feet moving and 
is aware in all his sensitive enamel of the imminent 
grinding of the file that has been set going. 

Perhaps it was the long-continued strain of the cold 
that was affecting her. The frost had lasted since before 
Christmas, and had been very severe. . . . 

She paused. The little clock on the mantelpiece 
tinkled half-past eleven. Supposing she were to give 
herself a slight moral fillip — go upstairs and try on her 



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THE OPERATION 45 

new dress, and see how it fitted, after having been 
"back" twice. She was sure in this way to obtain a 
sensation, pleasurable or otherwise. 

She mounted another flight, feeling every step to be 
an effort. She lit the gas-stove in her room, and dis- 
missed the dilatory housemaid, whom she found on her 
„ knees examining the pattern of the carpet. Then she 
dragged- a tall cheval glass into position, having due 
regards to unbecoming cross-lights, and undressed. Her 
white, handsome shoulders appeared; she looked ten 
times prettier than she had done in the severe morning 
shirt and tie, and she knew it. She stood for a few 
minutes before the mirror, complacently admiring her- 
self and in no hurry to don the heavily-trimmed corsage 
that awaited her verdict. It lay beside her, half in and 
half out of the flowered cardboard box, interleaved with 
tissue-paper, and with intersecting lines of tape winding 
it into its cage. Her eyes rested on it with feminine 
appreciation of the elaborate building of the silk lining, 
with its white bone cases crossing and recrossing the 
back of it, and the high collar which was to fit in under 
the very lobe of the ear. Still she deferred the pleasing 
moment of assumption, standing still and preening her- 
self ; soft lappets of valenciennes lace flowering out as a 
frame to the pink skin. . . . 

Suddenly, taken by surprise, without a cry or a moan, 
she cowered and was bent, bent nearly double. Agoniz- 
ing pangs shot through the framework of her body. 
Her eyes were glassed over with tears, and through 
them she stared out on the world, bewildered, peering 
to see from which point the next arrow of dolour would 
fell ! 

It came again, without fail it came again, this time 
no stabbing thrust, but a sword, driving, delving labor- 



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46 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

iously through her vitals in a lingering, painstaking 
manner. She was by now prepared and well frightened, 
and she groaned aloud. Her breasts rose and came 
together, as in some strange health exercise, under the 
laces and ribbons. • . . 

My God ! Was it ? Was the silver bowl down- 
stairs going to be used at last ? 

No, it could not be. The thought was dismissed as 
soon as formed. A chill on the liver? The extreme 
cold. . . . What a fool she was to prance about like a 
peacock in front of a glass for half-an-hour half dressed t 
What else could she expect? That silly stove gave 
no heat. . • • 

She gathered to her a dressing-gown that lay near and 
sat still, cowering. A long pause ! She could not 
think. But she received no physical intimation of the 
recurrence of her agony. 

Five minutes later she boldly rose, defying it, and 
, tore the new dress out of its rustling ward without stop- 
ping to untie the tapes that controlled it. With a screech 
of tissue-paper it yielded itself into her hands, and she 
put it on. 

Then she laughed. The pain was forgotten. She 
wriggled about happily. 

"Yes, it still catches me . . . just there ! They must 
have it back. I'll go to Madam about it, on — let me 
see? — Tuesday. . . ." 

Taking the precaution of putting her arms properly 
into the warm dressing-jacket this time, she wrapped the 
dress up again, tied the white tapes across it, put the lid 
on firmly, and with the little stylograph Joe had given 
her, methodically scored out her own name from the 
label, thus substituting that of the dressmaker printed 
all over the box. 

The exertion, slight as it was, roused again the smoul- 



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THE OPERATION 47 

dering fire of pain. She sat down helplessly on her bed, 
giving herself up to it. Her eyes were like those of a 
dumb animal in the death anguish, as she stared across 
at her reflection of her already distorted features in the 
glass. Rolling to and fro, she grasped and relaxed 
alternately the fronts of her peignoir, knotted feverishly 
in her palm. 

"What the divil is it?" she murmured. "I feel as if 
my life was going ! " 

She did not think of calling any one — Vance or Gladys 
the impotent housemaid; no one could help her. She 
was but a poor human passage-way for these relentless 
throes that passed Juggernaut-like through her shrink- 
ing body. It was like a garden roller, when it was not 
like many scythes set on one axle turning, twisting inside 
her. What had she ever done to suffer so ? No child of 
Joe's could be so cruel and tear its mother thus ! . . . 
Nay, she had not conceived, unless it was some mon- 
strous impious growth that was rending her, and would 
not soften or relax till it killed her. . . . She really 
thought she was going to die ! . . . 

Presently, when all was quiet again in the tortured 
battleground of her body, she rose and pushed her hand 
through her bows of waved hair and flung it back hide- 
ously and crossed the room. Apologetically almost, for 
fear of provoking a recurrence of the horror, she dragged 
herself downstairs, and to the swing door at the head of 
the kitchen stairs. She now felt the need of a confidante. 
She must tell some one. The housemaid was too young. 
Vance was fairly motherly. Pushing open the door, she 
sat down on the top step, with her peignoir gathered 
round her, and stretching out her legs allowed them to 
hang over into the dark abyss of Vance's domain. 

By the time she felt able to raise her voice and call 
Vance she had decided not to confide in her. The cook 



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48 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

would immediately "think things," and she wanted no 
fuss. It was not "that" either, she only wished it 
was. . . . For then there would at least be some com- 
pensation in baby fingers to smooth pain away. 

In response to her weak summons the cook appeared 
at the foot of the stairs. Even in the dim penumbra of a 
London basement, a person unpreoccupied by her own 
symptoms would have realized at once that Vance was 
discomposed — agitated in some unusual way. Her cap 
was hanging by one hairpin, her floury arms were ner- 
vously rubbed one against the^other. But Mrs. Mardell 
noticed nothing in other people to-day. She addressed 
Vance slowly and deliberately. 

"Vance, please I want you to make me a nice cup of 
tea — at once. I shall not be able to eat any lunch. I 
think I'll wait till six, and have something with Mr. 
Mardell." 

"Ain't you feeling well, Ma'am?" asked the cook 
spiritlessly. 

"No, not very — a little all-overish. It will be nothing, 
only I don't feel like eating a solid meal." 

" Nor I can't say I feel like cooking it ! " Vance 
observed bitterly. "I'm that upset! I've been across 
and asked." 

"Asked what?" inquired Mrs. Mardell wearily. 

"About the funeral that I saw with my own eyes 
leaving that house on Christmas Day. . . . It's not 
natural, I said, to go getting buried on Christmas 
Day " 

Mrs. M'ardell interposed impatiently. "You don't 
mean to say you went and asked at the house if they'd 
had any one die there ? Really, Vance " 

"It's no good saying that now, Ma'am; I had 
to know. And it's only a Nursing Home, not a 



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THE OPERATION 49 

private house, so I've done no harm. And" — the 
woman's voice grew low and hoarse — "nobody ain't 
died there — not yet — that's all ! " 

She put her apron to her face. 

"Good gracious, Vance! " Mrs. Mardell cried. "Tell 
me more about it 1 " 

"Ma'am, they've only got one patient there — a lady. 
She was going on all right, but she had a relapse this 
morning, just about half-past eleven, their cook said 
it was. She had an operation three weeks ago, and no 
good, and it's got to be done all over again this after- 
noon at two o'clock, and they can't tell as it will be 
successful, this time." 

"Well, my good woman, don't you worry. Let's 
hope that the lady will get over it. People do, you 
know, or there would be an end of nursing homes. I 
really feel so poorly myself that I can't get up much 
sympathy with other people's aches and pains. Be quick 
and get the kettle on, or is it boiling already ? " 

"Yes, Ma'am, you shall have it in a minute. Ma'am, 
you may not believe me, but I seen a proper funeral, 
and the hearse waiting, and the corpse carried out and 
down those steps . . . and the bearers with crape on 
their hats and so attentive, and one of them was no 
bigger than Master. ... I thought of Master the 
moment I saw him. . . . And she was a big woman, for 
she took a big coffin. . . ." 

"You are settling that it's the woman who's lying ill 
there now who has got to die, I see. What's her 
name ? " 

"I asked, but the girl didn't know it, only that she 
was an actress." 

Mrs. Mardell gathered in her legs decisively. 

"Come now, Vance, don't stand there gossiping and 

E 



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Q TALES OF THE UNEASY 



unhinging yourself with fancies ; get me my cup of tea. 
I shall be all right, I expect, when once I have had some- 
thing warm. Bring it to my room. I shall lie down a 
bit, I think." 

She rose to her feet, closed the swing door, dismissing 
Vance and her dreary soothsaying vision, and passed 
upstairs. Her day was spoilt. The pain did not seem 
to be going to recur, luckily, but the deadly feeling of 
uneasiness which had succeeded it certainly increased. 
Her legs were weak and could hardly carry her. People 
who have seen an apparitioti are said to feel just so. But 
as she reflected it was Vance, not she, who had seen 
the ghost 1 

She paused half-way up the stairs to look out of the 
wiridow on the first landing, whence Vance declared she 
had watched the lugubrious tableau. Mrs. Mardell had 
never gone in for knowing her neighbours, it was wiser 
not, or else she would have been aware of the industry 
that was carried on at number thirteen, a red-brick sham 
artistic villa, just like her own house — like every other 
house in the street. She could only make it out by 
pressing her face against the window, and then she only 
saw it aslant, and red, through tHe vicious stained glass 
that occupied that particular pane. Eight steps led up 
to the front door of it, as eight steps led up to hers. 
Surely it was awkward for the incoming patients — many 
of them, presumably, too ill to walk? She wondered 
what sort of cases they took there. It would depend. . . . 

Julia, she had heard, had grown very fat — at thirty. 
. . . That indicated something abnormal, in a youngish 
woman ! . . . Something that had to be removed, 
generally. . . . She laughed. . . . She wondered 
why she laughed. . . . 

"Your tea, Ma'am!" said Vance suddenly at her 



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THE OPERATION 51 

elbow. "I thought I would bring it up to you 
myself." 

Mrs. Mardell was a little ashamed that Vance should 
discover her staring out of the window at the scene of 
her absurd cock-and-bull story. She turned and coldly 
bade the cook precede her to her bedroom with the tea. 
Vance accepted the rebuff meekly. She looked cowed 
and thoroughly upset, and as if no merely domestic 
trifle could affect her now, broken to tragic issues as 
she had been. 

The tea, as Mrs. Mardell had expected, revived her, 
and enabled her to lay a nice little plan for a quiet after- 
noon indoors. She proposed to telephone for Miss 
Walton to come and sit with her for a bit. She needed 
something or somebody to pick her up. Of course there 
was Charlie Bligh, a nice boy whom both she and Joe 
liked ; she might telephone him to come and take her out 
to dine, as he often did. . . . But no, she wasn't looking 
Carlton form ; it wouldn't be fair to Charlie to ask him to 
take out anything that wasn't gay and smart. Besides, 
it would be rather mean to leave Joe to eat his dinner all 
alone when she had not even said good-morning to him. 
She had often left him for dinner, of course, and he had 
never thought of objecting, verbally at least — but just 
now that he was so busy and overworked she felt sure 
that he would like her, sitting beside him at his dinner, 
even though she could eat nothing. She saw herself 
delicately invalidish, in her soft draperies, picking at 
some grapes. . . . She felt mysteriously drawn to Joe, dear 
Joe, who was working for her now, who never attempted 
to control her social movements, who took what she gave 
him and was always as ready to flirt with her as if he 
were not married to her ! She had managed Joe well ! 
No, she wouldn't leave Joe to-night, but get Miss 
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52 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Walton, who would surely stay with her till Joe returned 
about half-past five, as usual. 

Miss Walton, over the telephone, signified her willing- 
ness to come and have a good chat. Mrs. Mardell made 
up her mind to take things easy. She was really unwell, 
she had eaten nothing since breakfast, she felt empty, 
shaken, swelled and sore. She could not have got her 
exquisitely adjusted corsets on if she had tried, or 
endured the pressure of them round her body. A tea- 
gown was clearly indicated. She assumed one, and a 
little lace cap that went well with it. Sighing deeply, 
she lay down on the rose-coloured chintz sofa in the 
drawing-room, shaded by a soft standard lamp, breath- 
ing timorously, existing furtively, unnoticed. She 
hoped it would pass her by, this brooding eagle of pain 
waiting to tear her. 

She had brought her jewel-case downstairs with her 
and idly toyed with her trinkets. There were three 
trays, lined with velvet. They twinkled with precious 
stones. She took every piece in order and examined 
them slowly, seriously. All the while, her fingers 
seemed to know that down at the bottom of the box lay 
their real objective, a thin, crumpled, tousled letter folded 
small and turning up at the corners. Florence Mardell 
had received it a few days after her marriage, and 
although it was only a letter from a woman, had forborne 
to show it to her husband. 

The letter was not actually malicious or even disagree- 
able, but it had dismayed her, and shocked her. She 
had kept it in case Julia should ever choose to lay aside 
her extraordinary tolerance and become human again. 
She read it over now to remind her of what it contained. 
Indeed she had intended to do so when she fetched the 
box. The by-play with the jewellery was only a blind — 
self-deceiving, a sop to her superficial consciousness. 



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THE OPERATION 53 

"Now it is all over, my strivings have not been in 
vain, and Joe passes from me to you. You must not 
mind my writing to you, Florence. I think that, on the 
whole, you will prefer to know what I feel, and that the 
woman you have supplanted is not your enemy. Joe 
loves you, and as the woman Joe loves, you cannot be 
abhorrent to me. Convention forbids me to be your 
personal friend, your feeling possibly, and perhaps my 
own, for I am but a woman after all, and the open wound 
that was left in my life when Joe was torn from my side 
would be chafed and kept raw by the sight of him merged 
now in your life. Yes, it is better so. I cannot, will 
not, see him either — though Joe is not conventional. . . . 

"Joe is nothing that is not splendid. I did, I do love 
him so passionately, that I cannot hate you, Florence, 
as you see. You are the fair new temple in which he 
worships the spirit of Beauty and Love and Life. The 
law has clanged the door to, none may dare to interrupt 
the Litany he prays there, on his knees. God bless you. 

"But oh, my dear, keep him there. Never undress 
the altar. No more shifting for Joe, if we women can 
help it. He is a great man — he must be treated like a 
great man. These upheavals are bad for him, from every 
point of view. So be practical as well as passionate, and 
condescend to learn from me, who failed, how not to lose 
him. Only approximately can you learn, for the wind 
of art blows its children where it listeth. You know 
what an artist he is, and all artists are nothing but divine 
children. But, Florence, on your life, don't treat him 
as one. Don't let yourself * mother ' him as I did and 
be mad enough to sink the mistress in the sister, the 
friend even. That was my fatal mistake, I abstracted 
my sexual self till I became at last the caterer for his 
mere physical welfare, the confidante of his passing 
flirtations. Oh, the bitterness of those smothered con- 



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54 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

fessions, those despairing returns of him, broken, marred 
and dispirited, to the one who surely loved him I Do 
this, my dear, as I did, and then one day he'll come to 
you, as he came to me, and put his head on your knee 
and ask you to divorce him. So you're both ruined in 
your several ways. He cannot go through it a second 
time. 

"Now listen. You must. I know. I would have you 
always a little inaccessible, puzzling, capricious even. I 
would ask you to dare to appear selfish, if you can 
manage it. Preserve your delicate tangibility, punish 
any slight infringments of your rules, close your door 
to him at nights when he has been naughty or careless. 
What it will cost you! But it is the right way. 

" You have an enormous pull by not acting with him, 
believe me! One gets so common, so cheap to a man, 
when he is used to knocking one about all over the stage, 
as Katherine, say, or insulting one as Nancy. Stay 
away from the theatre and accept as many dinners with- 
out him as you can. Although there isn't the very 
slightest chance of his losing you, don't let him feel as 
convinced of that as you are yourself. You see what I 
mean, don't you, Florence? I heard you were very 
clever, as well as a little frivolous. 

"I have thought all this out, in many sleepless nights, 
for your benefit and his. Yes, it is Joe that I am think- 
ing of, and shall think of till I die. And so of you, 
too. 

"Oh, don't for goodness' sake be offended by this 
letter, or take a dislike to me, for whether you like it 
or no, you will never be quite free of me, any more. 
Thought, strong thought, does permeate matter and 
finds itself able to overthrow its mere material resist- 
ance. I have proved it, no matter how. I won't weary 



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THE OPERATION 55 

you with attempted explanation. I should not fancy 
you were psychic. But be sure that there will be a 
little of me in all your relations with Joe, I shall have a 
word in your menage and you must not let the thought 
of it make you uncomfortable. Do you suppose I could 
have let him go so easily, if I had not this power to 
console me? Take it, as the slight penalty of kid- 
napping a man out of the ward of a devoted woman. 
You see how it is, he comes away, she offers no material 
or spirited opposition, but he brings inevitably some 
of her atmosphere along with him. Joe never actually 
ceased to love me; he only began to love you. I never 
misconducted myself — funny phrase! — so I am still his 
true and faithful wife, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, 
and where he is, henceforth, in some sort, I am. It 
cannot be helped. 

"It is a good thing that I am not vindictive and that 
I don't hate you, since our relation must necessarily 
be so close. I assure you that it will not inconvenience 
you; annoy you, or trouble you at all, at least not until 
the bands of the spirit are loosed in one of these great, 
bare, soul-stripped, unaccounted-for moments of life, 
that come to all of us sometimes. Then, you know, one 
can't tell, or foresee. . . . The spiritual bonds and 
relationships assert themselves and enforce attention. 
... J can't quite promise to shield you, then, to free 
you from the circle of the charm. . . . But are you so 
frivolous, Florence? Won't it interest you — awe you — 
soothe you? 

"Ah, don't fear me, don't hate me — bid your flesh 
comply with me. ... I am only the ghost of a wife 

a power of love that can't circumscribe itself, even 

though it would. There is a physical lien between us, 
undoubtedly. I won't drag it if I can help / . . • I'll 



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56 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

try to control — I don't know what I am writing — some- 
thing writes for me. But trust me. Julia." 

"What a cat ! "said Mrs. Mardell. 

She folded up the letter again and laid it at the bottom 
of the box. It was almost actionable, she thought, a 
threatening letter. Or else the letter of a mad spiritual- 
ist — utter sentimental, impossible rot. What would 
Charlie Bligh, or any other daylight person think 
of it? 

Strangely enough, she had more or less taken Julia's 
advice ! It was sensible, and thus she supposed 
germane to her own character. She had not "mothered " 
Joe, what woman in her senses would? She needed 
no deserted, defeated schemer to hang about her, in 
the spirit, to tell her that ! She knew men as Julia 
with all her preachments had evidently never known 
them, and the result of her wise treatment of Joe was 
that he was devoted to her, extraordinarily so, for a 
busy man. Of course he worked hard, too hard, harder 
than he had done in Julia's time. It had happened 
so, success had brought its own tension and high pres- 
sure. He was not, as Julia and her friends might like 
to suggest, trying to drown the memory of her in a 
round of forced activities. He was only taking fortune 
at the flood and making dramatic hay while the sun of 
critics favour shone. Not for a moment did he regret 
the step he had taken, his was an essentially light 
nature, he never brooded, and he detested heroics. The 
writer of that letter, with its tedious mixture of senti- 
mentality and preoccupation with material cares, must 
have bored Joe to death, in the days when she had him 
all to herself and could claim consecutive opportunity 
for worrying him. And now, of course, a masterpiece 



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THE OPERATION 57 

of supreme tactlessness, like all failures, she turned 
critic and took on herself to give good advice. 

Florence Mardell laughed. The reading of the letter 
had acted as even a better fillip than the trying on of 
the dress, and had nearly made her angry. , 

" I suppose " — she tossed her little gold crowned head 
— "that it is very good of her to give me the straight 
tip, and volunteer to overlook my manage, generally, 
like a sort of superior lady housekeeper ! I am not so 
bad at it myself, thank you ? " She worked herself up 
to a sneer. "Much obliged to Julia, I'm sure, for 
haunting me, especially as she appears willing to confine 
herself merely to bothering the sensible mistress of the 
house, and doesn't go frightening the servants and 
making them give up their places. Vance wouldn't 
stop a minute " 

Her brow furrowed a little as she remembered the 
white, frightened face of Vance that morning. 

"It's a fairly cool thing, though," her thought 
resumed, "for one woman to tell another, flat, that she 
considers herself ^part of her because she happens to 
have adored her husband and does still, I suppose. 
Man and wife — no, wife" and wife— are one flesh. . . . 
Ha! Ha! . . ." 

It was two o'clock, her face changed. Arrowy 
tinglings, growlings as of a chained monster inside her 
slender frame, punctuated her words. The pain had 
come again. . . . 

When Miss Walton came in she would ask her to 
ring up a doctor. She could not have dragged herself 
to the instrument now. 

• • • • • • • 

The front door bell rang. She heard Miss Walton's 
cheery voice making inquiries about Mrs. MardelPs 



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58 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

health as she shook the balled snow out of her boots on 
to the hall mat, and plumped her umbrella into the rack. 
Mrs. Mardell sat still, physically incapable of rising-, 
though she had had but a short bout of pain this time. 

She had made up her mind to question Miss Walton 
about Julia. Julia's affairs seemed for the moment 
essentially her concern. She felt no malevolence to- 
wards her in spite of the re-reading of the letter. Miss 
Walton, the confidante, had never been allowed to see 
that letter. She should see it now, if she was good 
and satisfactorily confidential ? 

" Well, dear, how are you ? " Miss Walton had come 
in, her work-a-day nose reddened with exposure, and her 
hands thickened with chilblains. "I suppose you are 
feeling the continuous cold, like the rest of us. And you 
know, you little minx, that you look best in a tea gown." 

"Do I look well?" 

"Well, a bit bleached,, perhaps, and your eyes rather 
funny and starey, as if you'd been seeing ghosts?" 

"Vance has, she says." 

"A ghost in West Kensington ! Nonsense ! " 

"It was a mock funeral, Vance says," Mrs. Mardell 
remarked in an even voice. "Coming out of a house 
in this street on Christmas Day, when there was nobody 
died in it, as they told her." She looked closely at Miss 
Walton's face. "Do you know any one at number 
thirteen ? An actress, Vance says " 

"Bless her. Christmas pudding, I should say. No, 
T don't know a soul in this street besides yourself " 

Mrs. Mardell, with a sigh of relief, leant back again. 

"But, I say, Florence, you do look dicky," Miss 
Walton continued. "What have you been doing with 
yourself ? " 

"Perhaps you'll say it is Christmas pudding with 



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THE OPERATION 59 

me too," replied Mrs. Mardell, laughing feebly. "But 
I don't know — somehow, I've had a horrid day. I seem 
to have got a sudden attack of lumbago, or sciatica or 
something." 

"It doesn't sound likely, at your age." 

"No, does it? But it's pains right through me at 
intervals all through the day. I had a fearful bout, 
just before you came. I daresay it's nothing " 

"Rheumatism, probably," said the other. "Nothing 
so absurdly painful when it gets hold of one. Here's 
tea — nice hot tea. It will do you good." 

"I've had two goes already." 

"Oh, have a third ! Nothing like tea for us women ! 
Here, let me pour it out. Your poor little hands are 
trembling." 

"No, I'll manage. Sugar? I forget if you take it? 
And lots of milk ? . . . Alice, how long is it since you 
saw Julia ? " 

Mrs. Mardell was surprised at the coolness of Miss 
Walton's reception of the seldom pronounced name. 
She might have reflected that the other woman had no 
particular reason to be shy of it, for she had been 
Florence's and Julia's confidante during the stormy 
times of the divorce and had managed to be loyal and 
friendly to both. She now replied offhandedly to Mrs. 
Mardell 's question — 

"Not for six months. Lost sight of the poor dear, 
rather." 

" And when you last saw her, how did she look ? " 

"Handsome, but rather too fat. I can't say I much 
liked the look of that, for she's still quite young. I 
always fancy it means morbid growths, and that kind 
of thing. Poor old Juley ! One never even sees her 
name in the bills now, does one ? " 



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60 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Retired on the allowance Joe makes her, I suppose," 
said Florence Mardell bitterly. "I can't think how she 
could bring herself to take his money ? " 

"Only that she's poor, of course." 

"How poor ?'' 

"One can't tell," replied Alice Walton, "with people 
like Julia. She's Irish. She's the kind of woman who 
pays a man from Douglas's to come and wave her hair, 
and dry it on towels that you can't see for the holes ! 
You understand. She's the sweetest, cleverest, un- 
tidiest soul alive ! She took a flat in Paris with a friend, 
and the state of that flat, I'm told, after a week of Julia, 
beat even the femme de menage they got in to do for 
them ! They never dressed or ate, but lay about all day 
in peignoirs and smoked cigarettes. They got in a 
hypnotist to talk to them about Joe, I believe. Julia 
makes no secret of her devotion to Joe, as I suppose you 
are aware? . . . Now, Florence, keep your feet up — 
there's a good girl ! You look ghastly." 

"Yes, I know. So she's still mad on Joe? Tell me 
more about her. She isn't a woman of much taste, I 
fancy — can't dress a bit?" 

"No, but a generous creature, full of impulses and 
never a mean one among them. I do admire her 
character, I confess." 

"So do I," said Florence Mardell. "And so did Joe, 
I believe." 

"Does. He can't help seeing her qualities, and being 
flattered by her immense devotion to him. Though, of 
course, he's used to it — he can't help being faskynating 1 
He's such a sprite and yet so strong. Julia was as big 
again as he was, pretty nearly. He admired her 
awfully, as little men do always admire big women." 

"I'm not very big, yet Joe admires me." 



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THE OPERATION 61 

"Oh — I know he does and long may he continue. 
He may, for Julia, that's one thing, she's strictly ' hands 
off/ I know. She's never made the slightest attempt 
to get him ever to go and see her." 

"He wouldn't go if she did." 

"I shouldn't be too sure of that," said Miss Walton, 
carried, by love of her subject, beyond the limits of 
tactfulness. "And what would it matter? Joe was 
truly fond of her till you came along, you little witch ! 
And she's never done anything to set him against her 
or hurt his self-love. That's what a man minds. I 
don't see how he could have refused her a thing like 
that, nor could you. No, give her credit for her gener- 
osity, I believe he proposed it and that she refused to 
see him, steadily. Nobody in theatrical circles thought 
for one moment you'd keep him against her. The 
betting was all that, if she had tried, she'd have got him 
back in a month." 

"No, not if she'd tried, she wouldn't," said Florence 
Mardell earnestly. "She loved him too much ! " 

Her lips sketched a grimace as she spoke; her hand 
moved to her side and her eyes filled with tears. 

" What is it, dear ? The pain again ? " 

"I was afraid of it — my body was, I mean. But it 
luckily doesn't seem to mean business, this time. And 
I don't believe I could feel any more,— I don't seem to 
have any organs left. It's the peace of emptiness — 
exhaustion ! Do, dear, let me go on talking and thrash- 
ing out things. What I meant when I said that Julia 
loved him too much, was this, that it is a mistake to 
love so openly and make such a noise about it. Men 
don't value affection that's cried from the house tops. 
It just disgusts them. Love at breakfast, love at 
luncheon, love all day ; it's sure to pall. Love shouldn't 



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62 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

be mixed up with daily bread-getting. It should be a 
speciality, not a sort of smoking mixture, advertised on 
every passing omnibus." 

"Go on, child, you interest me. Why, you yourself 
simply adore Joe 1 " 

A faun-like, tormenting expression Miss Walton had 
never seen there, came over Florence Mardell's face, as, 
in the weak exhausted voice of a privileged invalid, she 
proceeded — 

"I adore Joe as smart women permit themselves to 
adore the thing they value and mean to keep. I believe 
I prize Joe, not for what he is, though I'm aware he's a 
genius, but for what he means to me — light and kisses 
and frocks and champagne. There isn't so much of that 
as there would be if Julia and her allowance didn't stop 
the way 1 I love Joe because he's the fount of life to 
me, because I feel good when he is in the room, and 
dull when he is out of it. I happen to know that I 
shouldn't feel that about him if he came to me ill and 
hipped and unsuccessful. Sounds mean, but it's true. 
I perfectly enjoy the placards telling me that he can 
make a cat laugh, and critics saying he is like what 
Garrick used to be. An ' abridgement ' — what is it ? I 
am quite cross with him when the notices are poor, and 
I don't in the least long, then, to take his head on my 
shoulder and comfort him. It's he who h^s to comfort 
me." 

"Julia had a rather different theory I " 

"Yes, and Julia lost him and I got him. She called 
him her boy and her baby 1 He even told me so, saying 
how nice it was of her. Quite sincere ! He thought 
so, I daresay. I knew better, as if any man liked to be 
made to feel small 1 She'd have handed the moon down 
to him if she'd had it in her power, and when he cried 



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THE OPERATION 63 

for such a little easy thing as a divorce, of course she 
gave it him. A fool, I call her." 

"I don't know about that," the friend replied, com- 
batively. "Greater love hath no woman, than she lay 
down her marriage lines for her husband." 

"Well, I love him, but I couldn't have done that 1 I 
should simply have had to stick to him just the same. 
And then — if he had thrown me over, nothing would 
ever have induced me to take money from him ! " 

"But if you were extravagant and nearly starving?" 

"I'd have found a man to support me and buy me 
frills ! " 

"Then you couldn't have loved him, to degrade the 
thing he had once set store by." 

"If Joe had left me, anything could have become 
of me for all I cared ! . . . I see what you are driving 
at, Alice, you think I can't feel love as Julia does, 
because I haven't got beetle brows meeting over my 
forehead and a big contralto chest to sigh with. My 
way with Joe, whether I do it from self-control or in- 
clination, comes out best. A man like Joe needs a lot 
of spoiling, but not from the woman he cares for. I 
let outsiders do it for me. I don't cosset him, or make 
a point of being home every afternoon from my calls 
at an unearthly hour to dine with him. If a boy offers 
me a dinner, I accept and Joe gives me my taxi fare, 
and looks me over, and sees that my dress, for the other 
man, mind you, is all right. Nor do I wait up for him 
when he comes back, I just see supper's laid out all 
right and the fire kept up ar>d go to bed. I don't make 
him look ridiculous by fetching him at the theatre, as 
some actors' wives do. Julia, I hear, used to take parts 
that didn't suit her, so as to ensure her being on the 
spot with him, every night. I never know where he is 



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64 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and I don't go getting his pals to play detective and 
tell me. I may be conceited, but I do flatter myself, 
that wherever Joe is, he is thinking of me, and of how 
soon he can get back to me." 

"I think you are perfectly right," Miss Walton replied 
rather sardonically. "It's the best view to take of 
marriage, and for a woman married to a popular actor, 
the only one. Do you happen to know where Joe is, 
now ? " 

"Yes, I happen to be able to tell you. He is at the 
theatre, rehearsing the new play. They must be 
through by now, though ! He'll be here in a minute. 
I haven't seen him since yesterday. We dine together 
at six o'clock ! " 

"And it's half-past five now. Well, I must be off. 
Good-bye, old girl, and I wouldn't neglect those pains 
if I were you. I expect it's only rheumatism, but as a 
general rule internal pains should not be ignored. You 
look rather flushed " 

"I must go and put on some powder before Joe comes. 
Good-bye. Tell Gladys to come and clear away the tea 
as you go out." 

Mrs. Mardell was left alone, with two imperfectly 
drained tea-cups and some broken crumbs of cake on 
a Japanese tray. The spirit lamp under the kettle had 
gone out — she missed its cheerful flame. She was 
hemmed in, her knees were imprisoned by the flaps of 
the tea-table so that she could not lie back. . . . She 
felt disinclined to move and go upstairs for that dust of 
powder that was to impress Joe. . . . Everything was 
a bother . . . she felt very stupid, but she had no more 
pain, thank God ! . . . 

So she sat on, waiting for the maid to clear away the 
tea things and set her free, bolt upright in her hostess- 



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THE OPERATION 65 

corner of the flower-begarlanded sofa, with the pink- 
shaded lamp behind her, convenient for reading, only 
she did not want to read. Her head drooped, till her 
face was in shadow. Her eyes were fixed on a Liberty 
cosy corner that adequately filled an ugly bare place in 
the room but that no one ever sat in — and then and 
there she had a vision. 

It seemed to her that her sight pierced through the 
faint scaffolding of white wood pillars that bore up the 
inane piece of furniture. She had a view of a cold, bare 
room distempered in pale green, and nearly empty of 
furniture, excepting for a bed and an arm-chair. 
Presently, she distinguished a table made of slabs of 
glass, covered with bits of shining steel and physic 
bottles. She smelt a strong odour of ether. Then 
sundry persons surged into her field of vision, though 
they had been there all the time; two white-capped 
nurses, bending solicitously over a bed where a third 
person lay with long black hair spread over the pillow. 
A woman, who was speaking so faintly that Florence 
felt rather than heard what she said. 

"You are sure you have sent for him?" the image 
seemed to say urgently. "Nurse! Nurse! It's the 
' Quality Theatre ' ! " 

"Yes, Madam, we have telephoned through — * Quality 

Theatre.' It would have been as well ! Can you 

not give us your husband's home address, Madam ? " 

"I don't know it," the patient replied wearily. "But 
he will be at the theatre. He is always at the theatre. 
It's his life now. He'll come . . . he'll come ! " 

"Surely, Madam " 

The nurse turned away to speak to a colleague who 
had apparently only recently left the room and now 
returned. Florence then saw the features of the woman 



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66 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

on the bed, features never seen by her except across 
the footlights, charged with bright white and rose. 
They were grey and unrecognizable now, yet Florence 
knew whose they were. 

She heard the conversation of the two whispering 
women the while. 

"She's sinking fast," said the elder nurse. 

"She'll last till he comes, I think," replied the 
younger. "He's just telephoned through that he's on 
his way here I " 

With her words the whole house and its ramifications 
were now revealed to Florence Mardell — as it were the 
open front of a doll's house. She saw the steps leading 
up to the door — there were eight of them — the hall, the 
staircase and the room where the patient lay, at one and 
the same time. She heard a jingling of bells and the 
prod of a swift hansom suddenly pulled up at the 
behest of the urgently waved umbrella of a man within 
— her husband. She saw him leap out and dash up 
the steps to the door that was flung open as soon as 
he touched the bell. She missed no single stage of his 
progress upstairs to Julia's room. The nurse opened 
the door of it, admitted him, and passed out herself. 
Florence recognized Joe's familiar gesture — the overcoat 
hastily flung off and thrown aside, disclosing the dapper 
little ordinary man, with the long lock of hair, that was 
his mark of genius, lifting on his forehead as usual, 
as he impetuously advanced towards the bed. She 
realized the weak complaisance that stood for paradis- 
aical joy on the face of the woman lying there, whose 
light of life was too nearly extinguished to permit of a 
finer demonstration. But the actor's face was a marvel. 
This expression, evoked for the beloved dying woman 
only, was of such a tragic madness as no mime could 
ever hope to originate or imitate. Florence had never 



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THE OPERATION 67 

seen that look on his face, and sharp knowledge shot 
through her that even if she in her turn lay dying she 
would not see it then. A sob shook, but did not inter- 
rupt her steady absorption in the sight spread before 
her. 

Her hungry eyes watched the discreet nurse left in 
charge retire to the mantelpiece and thoughtfully 
examine her sleeve links, as the lover, with passionate 
solicitude and a cunning born of intimate usage, sat 
down and laying his arms round his mistress's neck, 
raised her a little, so as to gain her ear for the last 
whispers of love. 

As a ghost to earth returned, the second wife appre- 
hended the dreadful sense of the words those two 
exchanged together. Joe spoke with no sense of 
renewal, but as if Julia and he had parted but a few 
hours, or it may be days, ago. Florence could not 
resent, but she suffered the first pangs of a lifelong 
sorrow as she listened to Julia's faint sighs of content, 
her weak rejoinders to Joe's protestations of undying 
fidelity, his vows that turned to old, wise, baby talk, and 
the promises she wrung from him so easily. . . . 

The nurse still fumbled with her sleeve links, blinded 
by unusual tears. 

"You will see me buried?" Julia exacted, her hands 
twisting in Joe's hair, playing with the long lock. . . . 
"You will make all the arrangements for me, Joe, won't 
you ? I want you — I want you to manage it ! . . ." 

Vance was right. Joe was the puny ghost mourner. 
. . . And Florence looked on eagerly again. 

" It shall be our wedding . . . our re-marriage ! " 
He soothed her. "We meet again — to part no more 
. . . you and I, Julia, my Julia. . . ." 

What did he mean to do when Julia died, as die she 
must? It was very near now. Florence listened and 
f 2 



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68 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

looked, their voices seemed fainter, more furtive; the 
scene in the bedchamber was growing evanescent, 
ra gg e d, as if there were rents in the film. She some- 
times feared, so eager was she to see the whole of her 
own tragedy, that she was beginning to distinguish 
the wooden lines of the supports of the cosy corner that 
framed and crossed her view. She realized that Julia's 
hour was approaching and that the vision would fade 
with its instigator. The doctor had come in and the 
other nurse. She could detect on all three faces the 
professional discouragement painted there by their fore- 
knowledge of the event. They would look cheerful, 
normal again, after what must be, was over. But Joe's 
face surely could never be set in comic lines again, 
those muscles, so deeply inured to tragedy, might never 
relax or unbend. . . . 

She knew it when Julia died, though at the precise 
moment no one spoke, no one moved in the room for 
a while. Julia died, where she listed, where Joe would 
have her — in his arms. The shape of Julia would never 
go out of them. There would never be room there any 
more for Florence, whom he had not loved ! . . . 
• ••••• • 

She raised her head with a jerk. The pink cushions 
and hangings of the Liberty cosy corner filled up the 
lines of the woodwork again. The pillars framed 
triviality as usual. 

She was sitting in her own drawing-room, and Gladys 
the stupid maid, was there — just come in to take away 
the tea things. 

Mrs. Mardell spoke. 

"Dinner will be late to-night." 

"Yes, Ma'am, I see it's just gone half-past six now." 

"Your master is kept. ... He has things to see 
to. . . ." 



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THE OPERATION 69 

Gladys, eager to show she understood, interrupted. 
"Yes, Ma'am, Vance will keep dinner back." 

She folded up the table and set her mistress free. 
Mrs. Mardell had no more pain and knew she would 
not have any more, but she sat on in her place until 
seven, the hour at which her husband usually left for 
the theatre during this piece, in which his part entailed 
a somewhat lengthy and careful make up. . . . 

She heard the twist of the latch key in the door below, 
and for the first time in her life, shrank from meeting 
the eyes of the man she adored with a new and passion- 
ate love. But it was the lover of Julia who would come 
in to her and say something kind, as usual. Kind — 
merely kind was all he had ever been, in all these years 
of her blindness. She put out her hands as if to push 
him from her, and her lips almost framed the words, 
"Stay, oh, stay away 1 " 

No use, no use ! Her observation, tensely quickened, 
told her that he paused in the hall, for there was an 
abrupt cessation of all movement. He was hesitating? 
. . . Then he made up his mind to the disagreeable 
duty. So Florence read the gesture. His sturdy dutiful 
footsteps could be heard ascending ... a wild whiff 
of ether seemed to precede l\im ! . . . 

Her eyes dropped uncontrollably, as he touched and 
turned the handle of the door gently. ... It was done. 
He was in the room. 

How did he look ? She must know. She raised her 
sad eyes, and contemplated the dwarf-actor standing 
there on the threshold of the pretty cheap drawing- 
room, oppressing, appalling her with his overpowering 
dignity. His hair was disordered, and clung, matted, 
to his damp forehead; the long lock fell over it in the 
style of one of the good-natured roysterers he excelled 
in portraying. But his face had the make-up of a 



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70 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

clown ; the dark features stood out in a mask of putty- 
coloured whiteness, all but the lips, which had no red. 
Those eyes which had just looked on death, stared down 
on her, not unkindly, but unseeing. . . . 

She spoke at last, to break the awful spell which was 
winding itself round and round her, more than for any 
other reason. 

"Julia is dead," she said. 

" I know." He took a step forward into the room, and 
made a cold gesture of menace. She recoiled — then 
rose and faced him. 

"She died in my arms. I loved her." 

He turned away. It was as if he had laid a book 
aside and a leaf had been folded down. He muttered, 
with a semblance of forced preoccupation with the 
business of life — 

"I just looked in to tell you that I am going straight 
back to the theatre." 

"Without any dinner?" she shrieked. Then, more 
calmly — 

"Well, you will have something to eat when you 
come home, won't you? What time will that be?" 

It was the first time in her life she had asked such a 
question, and his answer to it, delivered over his 
shoulder as he went downstairs, cut her to the heart. 

" Perhaps never ! " 

Scant consolation ! She knew that he did not mean 
to kill himself — at least not yet, for he had promised to 
make the arrangements for and attend Julia's funeral. 



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THE MEMOIR 



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THE MEMOIR 

Did women in Society ever "speak " to other women, 
when a man dear to them both was concerned ? 

Had such an outrageous course ever been pursued 
since the days when Chriemhild "spoke" to Gudrun 
in the midst of the Rhine stream ? 

Little Lady Greenwell pondered this, time after time, 
day after day, as she sat dressed in her ineffectual Paris 
best, alone, in crowds, in sunlight gardens, lamp-lit ball- 
rooms, unlit boudoirs arranged for cosy gossiping teas. 
She never talked gossip, but she listened to it. A great 
deal of it covertly was about herself, or rather about her 
husband. That was one of the reasons why she felt 
that she ought to speak — speak kindly, seriously, 
effectively. 

She fully meant to tell Cynthia what it was her duty 
to tell her, but she could not make up her mind to take 
the first plunge into unconventionality. 

So, she sat about through a whole season, watching 
Sir Hilary's social triumphs — she herself never 
triumphed — and arranged her speech, carefully com- 
posing it beforehand, rehearsing it, canvassing the 
relative claims of diplomacy and frankness, fulness and 
brevity, emotion or matter of fact. What arguments 
should she use, and which let go? Which, having 
regard to the character of Cynthia Chenies, would be 
likely to affect that volatile lady most? Should she 

73 



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74 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

plead her own years the more, her own looks the less ? 
Should she take high moral grounds ? 

Should she put forward the young widow's personal 
expediency ? It all depended on what form of admonish- 
ment Cynthia would take best. 

Lady Greenwell was honest enough to admit to her- 
self that she proposed to lecture Cynthia as much for 
her own good, as Cynthia's. Truly, she felt that it 
would be a difficult thing to keep self out of it, or as 
much in the background as possible. 

"Just you let my man alone ! " 

That was what Kate of Wapping would have said 
to Peg of Limehouse, and no more ado, but could Lady 
Greenwell of Highfields, Hungerford, and 50, Carlton 
House Terrace so bluntly declare herself to the Honour- 
able Mrs. Chenies of Portland Place? Did well-bred 
women do these things ? It seemed at once so absurdly 
simple, just as you might ask some one to take his foot 
off your dress and no offence, and at the same time so 
appallingly impossible a thing to do. Women in 
Society were not supposed to show when they were 
annoyed, ask for explanations, or to "act straight." 

How they suffered in consequence of these absurd 
fetishes of conduct they set up, women alone knew. 
Moreover, such a subject, even if it were fairly and 
squarely discussed between two exceptional women, 
would represent the merely primitive appeal of the one 
to the other's generosity, and generosity, though per- 
missible in Wapping or Limehouse is not the " thing " 
in Mayfair or Portland Place. 

Yet some women were really and truly generous at 
heart — Cynthia was, she was sure. Had it not been for 
the presence between them of this male bone of conten- 
tion, Sir Hilary, Lady Greenwell would have been quite 
fond of Cynthia Chenies. She did not dislike her even 



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THE MEMOIR 75 

now, when Cynthia was making her so uncomfortable, 
and she admired her sincerely, her frocks and her style. 
Hilary, did, and she could not help following suit in 
this as in all else. 

And, naturally, Cynthia could not help liking Hilary 
and his open attentions. Who could help liking Hilary 
and complying with him when he chose to flirt, and 
he always did choose? He was a born flirt, and he 
was eight years younger than his wife. Wives, who 
were burdened with odious supernumerary years, must, 
of course, give their man a little rope, and Mabel Green- 
well gave hers a good deal. 

Hilary Greenwell was a traveller, who came home and 
wrote books about it. He danced and dashed through 
a season, and then packed up and went to risk his life 
on some inaccessible mountain or other. Of course, 
when he came back, brown as a berry, and with sheaves 
of notes and measurements, he was the rage, and women 
simply "clawed him " for their parties, and adored him 
for their boudoirs. 

Cynthia Chenies was no exception to the rule. 
Though a widow, she was little more than a girl, and 
looked a mere child. At the parties she gave in her big 
house, so Hilary would say, you always expected to see 
the dolls set up, and find pips in the orange juice soup, 
and have to mumble the "pretend " biscuit joint. Child- 
like, she knew no measure in her appreciation of the 
handsome traveller returned, and people were saying 
now that she was making a fool of herself, and that 
Lady Greenwell didn't like it. 

They were wrong there, Lady Greenwell wasn't 
jealous at aH. She was sure of Hilary, and would not 
have insulted him by display of vulgar jealousy. The 
effect of the scandal on her only amounted to discomfort. 
Great discomfort she might say, and even annoyance, 



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76 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and a few wet pillowed nights, loyally concealed from 
Hilary. She was neither young nor beautiful : it be- 
hoved her to be clever. She could, she knew, keep his 
love, though she was unable to restrain those loose 
tendrils of his fancy which waved airily to and fro, 
catching here and there temporarily on the fair up- 
standing flowers that bloomed every year in the great 
parterre of London's garden of seasonal delights. 
Hilary loved her and her only. She must do nothing 
foolish. 

Whatever she felt, whatever she said to Cynthia 
Chenies, must be a secret for Sir Hilary, a matter be- 
tween Cynthia and herself. Some women — fools ! — 
thought little Lady Greenwell — would have rushed at 
once to their husband with an appeal or a command, to 
"put a stop to it at once," thus definitely estranging 
the coveted man without affecting the issue in the 
desired way. No, it rested with her and her alone, to 
convince Cynthia of the awkwardness of the situation 
created by Cynthia's careless compliance with the fancies 
of the irresponsible Hilary, a situation merely irksome 
to his wife, but positively injurious to his wife's friend. 
Great interests on either hand were not concerned. No 
one's heart was in it. 

Punctuality was Lady Greenwell 's virtue — conse- 
quently her husband's too. She sat on the sofa at the 
Creswicks', fan in hand, handkerchief in lap. The man 
who was going to take her in stood over her chair, 
uttering the usual commonplaces, when the door opened 
to admit one single, smiling lady — Cynthia Chenies, 
late as usual, wearing the cluster of flowers she always 
wore, and that every one attributed to Sir Hilary's devo- 
tion. Lady Greenwell happened to know that Mrs. 
Chenies ordered them at the florist's for herself. But 
how could she tell people that ! 



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THE MEMOIR 77 

She saw, what, of course, other people saw, Cynthia's 
careless delicately possessive glance at Sir Hilary, a 
glance that effectually singled him out, as it were, from 
a group of like patterned men, clustered about the fire- 
place. So stupid of Cynthia ! Nothing else, of course. 
Lady Greenwell knew, as well as if she had been told, 
that Betty Creswick would send the two in together. 
Suppose she spoke to Betty Creswick, and asked her 
not to join the tacit conspiracy that prevails in well- 
regulated, pleasure-loving society, to give the woman, 
whenever it is possible, to the man she is supposed to 
want ? Never ! She would die sooner ! For Society 
would resent such an anti-social proposal and protect 
its own joys and convenience. 

It must go on although it was making her miserable. 
Would this wretched season never come to an end? 
Not that she need expect to find any intermission of her 
troubles even then ! For there would come visits, 
"country-housing " up and down the length and breadth 
of England and Scotland, the three would be asked con- 
stantly to meet each other. She had been so nice to 
Cynthia, that people all thought that Lady Greenwell 
had accepted it. There would be no rest for her till 
the late autumn, when Sir Hilary had agreed to go with 
a party of men on an expedition to locate a continent 
somewhere. He would be away for four months. 

As a loving wife she ought to have dreaded this 
approaching separation; she was shocked to realize 
that in her heart of hearts, she was looking forward 
to it. She would not see the light of his countenance, 
but then, neither would the other ! Jealousy makes sad 
dogs-in-the-manger of us all. And she would have the 
delight of his frequent letters. That is, unless he wrote 
to Cynthia too? 

If only she had had a child ! Cynthia had one, 



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78 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Cynthia, a widow, with no husband now to bind faster 
to her side therewith ! What a pity it all was ! 

Dinner was announced. Sir Hilary gave Cynthia his 
arm, with a certain look . . . proud . . . protecting 
. . . sheepish rather. . . . Yes, she must speak. 

She placed her hand lightly on the sleeve of she knew 
not whom, and followed Hilary and Cynthia into the 
dining-room. She was miserable, she was sure that 
Hilary, had he but known how unhappy she was 
making herself, would have tried at once to alter his 
line of conduct. And he would have failed ! Of that, 
too, she was sure. Man can do nothing in this line, 
of himself alone, save by the grace of the woman who 
is leading him astray. It was settled; she must speak 
to Cynthia ! 

Cynthia Chenies, who was not lacking in perception, 
realized at once the meaning of the innocently diplo- 
matic, intensely special glance which Lady Greenwell, 
placed exactly opposite, fixed upon her, as soon as 
everybody was seated. 

"Mabel Greenwell means to speak to me!" 

She could harbour no other thought, from the fish 
onward. She was a nervous, lazy woman, and the fear 
of a "woman's row" was intensely repugnant to her. 
She hated fuss about men, and bad form, and uncon- 
ventionally of any kind. Her affair with Sir Hilary, 
whatever it might mean to her, was openly, at least, 
quite within the bounds of her world's convention, and 
she deeply resented any attempt on Lady Greenwell's 
part to draw it out of its limbo of self-chosen 
vagueness. 

To herself, she was willing to admit that she loved 
Sir Hilary very well, nay, desperately. She was less 
willing to admit that she suffered over this illicit attach- 
ment, and yet did suffer a good deal, for she was a 



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THE MEMOIR 79 

good woman, and Lady Greenwell a healthy woman, so 
the chances were she would never get him honestly. 

She knew Sir Hilary loved her, was fond of Mabel, 
and respected them both. That being the case, he 
would not do either of them a wrong for the whole 
world. 

There it was ! What an impasse ! Three scrupul- 
ously honourable people caught in a net ! No issue but 
death, and she could not contemplate even Mabel's 
death with equanimity. Mabel had been very kind to 
her, and she and Mabel would have been the greatest 
friends if Sir Hilary had not stood between them. 

Though she pitied Mabel for her age, her plainness, 
she could not help feeling a little angry with Mabel 
for having presumed to marry Sir Hilary; she should 
not have allowed Hilary to persuade her that she was a 
suitable wife for him. Hilary was so plausible. Once, 
however, having committed the initial error, Mabel 
should not have hoped to keep him, except by courtesy. 

She knew Sir Hilary well enough not to feel obliged 
to talk to him, so she plodded imperturbably through 
the menu, eating a good deal to justify her taciturnity. 
"Oh, I am so hungry," she said once or twice, "I have 
been down to Brighton to-day to see the boy ! " 

Sir Hilary never worried. He quietly looked after 
her, gave her her own way now as ever. She was heed- 
less, he safeguarded her reputation as well as he could. 
He never wrote to her when he was away; she would 
have forgotten to destroy his letters. He called on her 
not too often ; he dined with her now and then, generally 
with his wife. There was no need to compromise her 
by overt acts of this sort. The mad, bad, sympathetic 
world was kind enough to cater for the indulgence of 
their affection; in all the rag6uts of society were they 
skilfully combined, and discreet opportunities of meeting 



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80 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

served up to them daily, with the result that every one 
was happy and amused, except Lady Greenwell, who 
had been born and bred in the country and never could 
acquire London's cynical tone. 

Once or twice, however, before this evening, Cynthia 
had suspected some such strata of unsuspected bourgeois 
feeling in Mabel. She almost wished Betty Creswick 
would not be so kind to Hilary and herself, and a little: 
kinder to Mabel. She sometimes even avoided dulll 
parties where she knew he was going. Not so Sir 
Hilary, he had no scruples of this kind. He adored 
her, he told her so — "and as there's nothing wrong 
about it all, why shouldn't we see as much of each other t 
as people will let us ? " 

"Ah, but other people " — an ellipsis for Mabel, 

whom it pleased her to mention to him as little as 
possible. But he understood, in his breezy, butterfly way. 

"Mabel is all right. Mabel's a good sort, and under- 
stands me. She isn't such a fool as to trouble about 
gossip." 

He never said more. It was tacitly assumed between 
them that Mabel was awfully fond of him and all that, 
but "demonstrations would simply bore her, you know." 
Meanwhile, he loved Cynthia with every fibre of his 
being — all save the domestic ones, it was understood 
— she was his Egeria, his goddess, his good angel, the 
woman he thought of last thing at night and the first 
thing on waking, in the jungle, on the veldt, on the 
frozen Himalayan slope. He was hers— hers only. No 
one else cared, not even Mabel, who had "settled down." 

Cynthia Chenies hardly realized it, but this passion 
had come to be her life. She breathed and dressed but 
for Hilary. She was a cold woman, and content with 
its platonic manifestations, but she technically regretted 
the immense waste exemplified in the position of the 



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THE MEMOIR 81 

lover, tied for all his days to two women, neither of 
whom was or could be everything to him. 

She caught Mabel's eye now and again full of timid 
reticences and prudent punctilios, but expressing over 
and above all others, the simple emotion that betrayeth 
itself in speech. 

" I must speak, or burst ! " the poor woman fancied 
Mabel saying, and shivered over her chocolate mousse. 

The moment came. Sir Hilary left soon after dinner 
to attend an Ethnological Society's meeting, and Lady 
Greenwell timidly offered to motor Mrs. Chenies home. 
For some fateful reason or other, that lady's brougham 
was not forthcoming. 

" It is frightfully out of your way, Mabel ! " argued 
the trapped fly. 

Gently, but firmly, the spider informed her that a 
mere difference of a mile and a quarter did not in the 
least constitute out-of-the-wayness, and the hostess 
settled it by her vague encouragements. 

"So nice of you to chaperon each other like that I " 

Mrs. Chenies hardly grasped the significance of Lady 
Creswick's remark until the knees of Lady Greenwell 
and herself were safely stowed under the same bearskin 
rug. 

"I wanted to speak to you, Cynthia," began Lady 
Greenwell honestly, without preface or pretence. 

" Did you ? " replied the other, shrinking as far away 
from her companion as she could into the corner of the 
motor. Then, collecting herself, she said, "You can, 
you know." 

"It is a little difficult for me — but then— I must 
remember it is for your good, Cynthia." 

"Oh, for my good! " exclaimed Mrs. Chenies, stung 
by the familiar, too familiar exordium. "You must 
remember I am not a mere girl — I am a widow." 

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82 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"That is just it," continued Lady Greenwell, de- 
lighted. "A young and" — with a gulp — "pretty 
widow." 

"Oh, don't mention it," the other begged her 
flippantly. 

Though her tone grated on and disturbed Lady Green- 
well, that lady continued, almost apologetically — 

"That is the right way to take it, dear, not seriously 1 
Just a little hint, you know — laugh about it as much 
as you like when I am done, but listen to me for a 
minute. . . . ! Could you not contrive, dear, to see a 
little less of Hilary — my husband ? " 

"I know he's your husband, Mabel, well enough I " 
Mrs. Chenies jerked out crossly. "And I don't see so 
much of him as all that ! " 

"Oh, I know, dear, I know all about your friendship 
— your intimacy . . . it's nothing at all, nothing at all 
. . . only you see people will talk." 

"Yes, bother them!" 

"We mustn't pay too much attention to gossip, of 
course, but we owe it to — ourselves, to take some notice 
of what is said. You may want to marry again ? " 

" Never 1" 

"Oh, don't say that!" pleaded the other pitifully. 
"You are sure to — so young and pretty. But don't you 
think, that meantime, that people should couple your 
name and Hilary's is prejudicial — rather to you? Of 
course, I know " 

"What?" 

"That there is nothing at all serious between you — 
nothing at all, Hilary" — she blurted out the indecent 
fact — "Hilary is devoted to me, and always has been, 
he has never swerved for the fraction of an instant. 
Besides, he would not " 

"Would not what?" 



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THE MEMOIR 83 

"Oh, Cynthia, you do make it so difficult! You 
seem so stony. . . . You aren't offended?" 

"No, of course not, I only wanted to know what it 
was Hilary wouldn't do?" 

Her careless use of the beloved's name hurt Lady 
Greenwell a good deal. She drew herself up — 

— "Would not allow himself to make love to another 
woman during his wife's lifetime. You may as well 
take that for granted. Only — he is younger than I, and 
heedless, and you are most attractive, while I am a piain 
woman, well-dressed. And the world thinks, of course, 
the usual thing ! Oh ! Cynthia, help me ! And it 
would not matter, of course, if it were not for you and 
your reputation, though I can't deny that it makes me 
very uncomfortable to hear him lightly spoken of." 

" What do you want me to do about it ? " 

"I said what. See less of him. See him only at my 
house." 

"Will you give him your orders, then, not to call at 
mine ? " 

" Dear Cynthia, how could I do that ? What do you 
think of me ? " 

"I think you are like all women — want to get some 
one else to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for you. 
Why should I do your dirty work ? And it would not 
do either, I couldn't forbid him my house without 
creating remark, and doing exactly what you don't want 
done — getting him talked about. Nor can I go and tell 
Betty Creswick not to send us in to dinner together " 

"Of course you can't tell her, but there are 
methods " 

"And I refuse to employ them, and let all the world 
think I am doing it because I have a guilty conscience 
or because you have been making a scene. You don't 
want that surely ? " 

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84 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"No." She shuddered. "Then it has been no use 
my speaking, practically ? And, Cynthia, you can have 
no idea what it has cost me ! " 

"I am truly sorry, but, indeed, dear, this sort of 
carriage lecture never does any good. You can't have 
straight talks to women. No woman can employ another 
woman to help keep her husband for her — it really isn't 
done." 

"Keep my husband! But have I not been telling 
you, Cynthia, all this time, that if I thought for one 
moment that my husband had been unfaithful to me in 
word, or thought, or deed, I would not have spoken to 
anybody at all about it, I would just have died ! It 
is precisely because I do believe in him " 

"Then it makes it quite simple — go on believing in 
him. You may," replied the other woman, drily, as the 
carriage stopped at the door of her own house. "Good- 
night, Mabel ! Thank you for the lift." 

"And are you cross, Cynthia? Believe me, I meant 
well." 

"You meant well by yourself, eh, dear? Just realize 
that you were speaking for yourself " 

"Oh, Cynthia, you are cruel." 

"Yes, but honest. Think it over. Let it all be as if 
it hadn't been. Shall I kiss you?" She paused, with 
a light foot on the step. 

"Yes, please. You know I am really fond of you, 
Cynthia, but you seem to have beaten me." 

"Oh, no!" asseverated Mrs. Chenies, "only con- 
vinced you that these sort of things can't be done." 

They kissed. 

"I had doubts about the wisdom of it at the time," 
murmured Lady Greenwell. "I thought you might say 
it was tactless. Hilary says I have no tact." 



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THE MEMOIR 85 

"Never mind, you are sure he loves you, and that's 
better than tact — that's everything ! " 

Mrs. Chenies was shaking out her skirts on the pave- 
ment, pulling out her latch key. . . . 

"So that's all right. There's an end of it " 

"Yes, and come to dinner to-morrow night, will 
you?" 

"Yes, dear. Good-night ! " 

Two hands met and clasped over the window-bar of 

the carriage. Lady Green well watched her friend in, 

and whirled away. Mrs. Chenies rushed impulsively 

upstairs to her room, and threw herself on her bed in 

an agony of weeping. They were tears both for herself 

and Mabel. 

• ••••• . 

It was a year later. Mrs. Chenies in modified mourn- 
ing — for she had made herself as black as she dared — 
rang for admittance at the door of Greenwell House. The 
very house seemed in mourning. It used to be furnished 
exotically, with variegated hangings and things Hilary 
had brought back from abroad. Cynthia shivered. She 
had been sent for. Why? Why did Mabel Green- 
well want to see her? The cords of their friend- 
ship had been sensibly loosened. It was perhaps 
as well. They mourned in their separate corners — of 
London. 

She was ushered into the presence of a little woman 
whose deep official weeds seemed almost to obliterate 
her slight frame and make her fade into the surrounding 
blackness. She rushed at and clung to her handsome 
visitor, and kissed her mournfully and deliberately on 
both cheeks. 

"Dear, dear Cynthia, how good of you to come to 
me!" 



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86 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Dearest Mabel, how good of you to be willing to 
see me ! " 

" Oh, I wanted you — somehow — so much ! I believe, 
when all is said and done, Cynthia, I am fonder of you 
than I am of any one ! " 

Mrs. Chenies winced and suffered herself to be kissed 
again on both cheeks. She looked extremely handsome 
in her glowing purples and blues. The widow's in- 
expressive eyes were merely dimmed and bleared by 
her tears, those of Cynthia Chenies shone, and she was 
not so silly as to redden the lids by dabbing them with 
a handkerchief, as Lady Green well did. 

"He was so fond of you, Cynthia! He has left you 
to me as a sort of legacy. We often spoke of you." 

Cynthia started. It had surely been a tacit conven- 
tion between herself and the dead Hilary, that — 

"Yes, I ventured at last to tell him about that talk 
I had with you once, and he took it just as you did. He 
laughed at me and said that I had no right to worry 
you with that sort of thing and that you were perfectly 
justified in being ' short ' with me, as you were, Cynthia, 
you know. He thought it very nice of you to forgive 
me and go on seeing us as usual." 

"Yes, yes, but I saw very little of him alone after 
that." 

"He went away so soon after, didn't he? That was 
perhaps a good thing — it gave one time " 

"I don't think you had any need to tell him." 

"Oh, my dear, what could it matter? There was such 
perfect confidence between us, and I preferred that a 
trifling incident like that should not be allowed to inter- 
fere with it. Surely you don't mind?" 

" Not now ! " replied Cynthia Chenies, with an effort. 
"And I suppose you had a perfect right to do as you 
liked about it." 



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THE MEMOIR 87 

"That's all right then. And Hilary said — dear thing ! 
— when he left me to go on that wretched expedition 
that killed him, that I was to be as nice to you as I 
could, and see as much of you as you would allow me 
to do, and so I have, and so I mean to." 

"Don't, don't cry so, dear ! " 

"Oh, do let me cry — it helps me! And how can I 
help it, when I think of the dearest husband ever woman 
had, lost to me, gone — gone — killed, out there alone, 
among horrid savages. . . . Why, Cynthia, you are 
crying too ! " 

"I can't help it either," said the other savagely, dis- 
daining to wipe her tears away. 

"Cynthia, you were fond of him, too — now don't say 
you were not ! " 

"I was." 

Lady Greenwell rose. She looked taller. She looked 
grim. 

"And that is the reason I thought — I made up my 
mind that you were the proper person to consult about 
this. . . ." 

"This?" asked the other, following the direction of 
those sad sunken eyes. 

"Yes! It was his last wish, Cynthia!" Lady 
Greenwell pointed to a large bulging packet lying, with 
a magnificent despatch box, close to her elbow, and 
continued, in her thin, nervous, passionate voice — 

"You know, when he got ill over there — it came on 
so gradually — he never ceased writing to me till the 
very last — he got his secretary to send home the MS. of 
his new book to me. He wanted me to see to the 
publication of it. I was to edit it, if he never came back 
to do it himself — and I was to ask you to be co-editress." 

"Good God!" 

"Oh, don't be frightened, dear, there is nothing to do, 



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88 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

it is all done. I did it, only, as he said you were to 
see it, before it came out, I could not but prepare to 
carry out his dear wishes. And now I must tell you, as 
he is gone, I should like to call it Memorials of a Noble 
Soul, something like that, and add some of his letters 
to me. I have them all here, in this despatch box, 
I never destroyed a single line of dear darling 
Hilary's " 

"They will make a most interesting book ! " mur- 
mured Mrs. Chenies, looking away. 

"Yes, won't they, only, of course," Lady Greenwell 
breathed softly, with a watery smile of triumph, "they 
will want some editing. They are too intimate, too 
personal for the ear of the general public. It could not 
be otherwise. But, still, I don't think the public should 
lose because he was in love with his wife, do you ? " 

"No, certainly not." 

"There is a great deal in them of purely general in- 
terest, of course, but it still wants weeding of lover's 
phrases and endearments and so on. So I thought the 
best plan would be for me to read them all aloud to you, 
and consult you as to what is to be left in, or struck out," 

Cynthia Chenies groaned aloud. Lady Greenwell 
smiled. She had gained confidence. 

" Cynthia, dear, how like you ! You were always 
afraid of hard work, and there is nothing — nothing bores 
you so much as listening. Hilary noticed that. ' These 
brilliant women ! ' he used to say." 

"Let's have the letters," ejaculated Mrs. Chenies 
bluffly. She adjusted a cushion or two behind her 
shoulders. "I have learnt how to listen lately. Let's 
have tea first." 

"Certainly!" Lady Greenwell rang the bell. Tea 
was brought. The hostess dispensed it. Then, with 
many a reminiscent pause, and sob and dab of the hand- 



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THE MEMOIR 89 

kerchief, Lady Greenwell opened the despatch box, and 
produced letters tied up in blue, Hilary's favourite 
colour. It was the colour of Cynthia's eyes. She 
fidgeted in her place, and Lady Greenwell offered her 
another cushion — "because this will all take time." 

"I'll read the first that comes," the widow of Hilary 
declared, when they had both settled down. "I am not 
afraid of your knowing, Cynthia, how fond he was of me. 
This one begins — he generally begins so — * Dear little 
woman ' — we can leave that out if you like ? " 

"You can't. It shows character," observed Mrs. 
Chenies sombrely. "Go on." 

Thus encouraged, Lady Greenwell read, shyly at first, 
but with gathering confidence, as the map of her hus- 
band's affection unrolled itself under her faltering 
tongue. She read faster. The session was going to last 
interminably, the letters were good, but long ! 

"Vefy vivid! Most interesting!" Mrs. Chenies 
remarked now and again, drumming with her foot, and 
with her face turned away. 

" It is really rather too intimate ! " Lady Greenwell 
blurted out. "Listen to this — 'Darling, my darling.' 
I can scarcely bear to read it. ' All night I lie and toss 
on my uncomfortable rugs, and think — think of you, 
darling, and your soft breast I ' " 

"You might put ' cheek ' there, instead of ' breast,' if 
you liked?" interposed the co-editress hastily. Lady 
Greenwell looked up. 

"Very well." She used a little pencil at her girdle. 
Then she resumed — 

" ' And I realize how the thought of one sweet woman 
at home, can be at once the joy and the torture of the 
traveller. For I don't know if it is most sweet or most 
bitter, this remembrance of happier hours in altered 
circumstances, It is joy, but then, sometimes the agony 



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90 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

of separation is too keen to bear. . . .' Oh, that he should 
feel it so ! I'll go on, Cynthia, if you don't feel too much 
bored. ' / stretch out my hands, I look for you, for 
your warm kind arms ' " 

"You certainly will have to strike all those rhapsodies 
out," Mrs. Chenies remarked coldly. "He must have 
been very ill then. Are the letters all like that? If so, 
they won't made a book of very general interest." 

"Ah ! " Lady Greenwell exclaimed. She was tossing 
over the letters feverishly. "They seem to have got 
mixed ! This is one of the English series — written from 
the Creswicks' place. That must have been sent the 
summer before he went, for that's the only time he ever 
went to Betty Creswick's alone. It was the very week 
I spoke to you, Cynthia." 

"I wish you would not keep on bringing that in," 
interposed Cynthia Chenies irritably, "you were quite 
right, and I was quite wrong, I see that well enough, 
now. Go on. We are both dining out to-night, I 
suppose ? " 

"Not I," said Lady Greenwell haughtily. "I shall 
never dine out again." She read on a little to herself. 
"He didn't like being there without me a bit," she 
murmured. "In fact, he loathed it." 

"Why didn't you go with him, then?" asked Mrs. 
Chenies, though she knew well enough. She had been 
one of the Creswick party, and the letter explaining 
Mabel's reasons for defection had been read aloud to 
her. But Lady Greenwell couldn't know that. 

"Oh, I got a bad chill at the very last moment, and 
had to wire I couldn't go, Cynthia, shall I read this 
letter?" 

"Of course. It's part of his life, I suppose." 

"'My own little brown bird y y " read Lady Greenwell 
softly, " * J was so grieved to leave you, tucked up in bed, 



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THE MEMOIR 91 

a darkened room and with only a hired nurse to hold your 
little hot hand. Here I may say I am not enjoying my- 
self a bit, and yet we are a very gay party and everything 
jolly. But I can't get any fun out of it without you to 
talk it over with me, after we've gone to bed at four in 
the morning. Dear little woman, why did you make me 
go alone ? The Creswick menage is a bit noisy for your 
quiet sober husband. One gets a little tired of the 
society of brilliant women — they flash and coruscate — 
and finally weary. I can't help thinking of a certain 
still small brown bird at home sitting on the bough, and 
waiting for me.' Oh, Cynthia, I do believe, here is 
something actually about you — he mentions you by 



"I'm the brilliant woman that wearies, am I not? 
Well, let us hear what he says about me." 

"Shall I? I've read them all a hundred times, but 
I don't quite remember, so if it annoys you, mind, it is 
your own fault. Here goes ! ' The Cynthia of the 
Minute is really a little overpowering. She seems quite 
to enjoy saying risque things and compromising her- 
self. . . .' I really don't think I ought to read this to 
you, Cynthia?" 

"Read it or I shall snatch it out of your hands." 

"Well, you are sure you won't mind? 'Poor little 
Cynthia, she is astonishingly indiscreet, but she means 
no harm. She is a dear, nice, ordinary simple woman, 
pretending to be a sad rake, but as good as gold, 
really ' " 

" As good as gold, really ! " 

"Well, isn't that nice for him to say that! Poor 
dear boy, he always did go straight to the heart of the 
matter, didn't he? He was, as a matter of fact, awfully 
fond of you, and this just shows it. He knew you 
through and through — though. What's the matter ? " 



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92 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Give me some hot water to drink," gasped Mrs. 
Chenies. " Is — this your revenge, Mabel ? " 

"Dear Cynthia, aren't you well? You do use such 
odd stagey words. Revenge ! I am your friend and 
always will be. My husband wanted us to be friends." 

"Well, then, do let us keep friends," said Mrs. 
Chenies, drinking her scalding hot water hastily and 
rising. "I must go. An early dinner for the theatre. 
. . . Tommy Vavasor. . . ." 

"But what about the letters? I have only read two." 

"Of course, you must leave that out about me," said 
Cynthia, speaking very fast and knotting her fur round 
her neck as if she wanted to throttle herself, "and all 
personalities about people still living. And you must 
not print names. But, as for the rest, I should give the 
letters in their entirety. Go ahead, that's my advice to 
you. You can hurt none, and your collaborator gives 
you carte blanche." 

She escaped. She preserved no memory of the pas- 
sage from Lady Greenwell's dull drawing-room to the 
gas-lit street outside. She bitterly resented the dead 
man's view of her innocent attempts at disillusioning 
him, on the only occasion they had met previously 
to his departure and after his wife's lecture, and she 
would have given her best jewel to discover whether 
Mabel's quite thorough revenge had been carefully 
planned or not ? 

She married young Lord Vavasor within the year, and 
contrived, without exciting any suspicion, never again 
to be alone in the same room with the widowed Lady 
Greenwell again. But she longed as she had never 
longed for anything else, to hear of Lady Greenwell's 
remarriage. 



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THE PRAYER 



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THE PRAYER 



" // is but giving over of a game, 
That must be lost."— Philaster. 

"Come, Mrs. Arne — come, my dear, you must not 
give way like this ! You can't stand it — you really 
can't ! Let Miss Kate take you away — now do ! " urged 
the nurse, with her most motherly of intonations. 

"Yes, Alice, Mrs. Joyce is right. Come away — do 
come away — you are only making yourself ill. It is all 
over ; you can do nothing ! Oh, oh, do come away ! " 
implored Mrs. Arne's sister, shivering with excitement 
and nervousness. 

A few moments ago Dr. Graham had relinquished his 
hold on the pulse of Edward Arne with the hopeless 
movement of the eyebrows that meant — the end. 

The nurse had made the little gesture of resignation 
that was possibly a matter of form with her. The young 
sister-in-law had hidden her face in her hands. The wife 
had screamed a scream that had turned them all hot and 
cold — and flung herself on the bed over her dead hus- 
band. There she lay; her cries were terrible, her sobs 
shook her whole body. 

The three gazed at her pityingly, not knowing what 
to do next. The nurse, folding her hands, looked 
towards the doctor for directions, and the doctor 
drummed with his fingers on the bed-post. The young 

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96 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

girl timidly stroked the shoulder that heaved and writhed 
under her touch. 

" Go away I Go away ! " her sister reiterated continu- 
ally, in a voice hoarse with fatigue and passion. 

"Leave her alone, Miss Kate," whispered the nurse 
at last; "she will work it off best herself, perhaps." 

She turned down the lamp, as if to draw a veil over 
the scene. Mrs. Arne raised herself on her elbow, show- 
ing a face stained with tears and purple with emotion. 

"What ! Not gone?" she said harshly. "Go away, 
Kate, go away ! It is my house. I don't want you, I 
want no. one — I want to speak to my husband. Will you 
go away — all of you. Give me an hour, half-an-hour — 
five minutes I " 

She stretched out her arms imploringly to the doctor. 

"Well . . ." said he, almost to himself. 

He signed to the two women to withdraw, and fol- 
lowed them out into the passage. "Go and get some- 
thing to eat," he said peremptorily, "while you can. 
We shall have trouble with her presently. I'll wait 
in the dressing-room." 

He glanced at the twisting figure on the bed, shrugged 
his shoulders, and passed into the adjoining room, with- 
out, however, closing the door of communication. Sit- 
ting down in an arm-chair drawn up to the fire, he 
stretched himself and closed his eyes. The professional 
aspects of the case of Edward Arne rose up before him in 
all its interesting forms of complication. . . . 

It was just this professional attitude that Mrs. Arne 
unconsciously resented both in the doctor and in the 
nurse. Through all their kindness she had realized and 
resented their scientific interest in her husband, for to 
them he had been no more than a curious and compli- 



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THE PRAYER 97 

>cated case; and now that the blow had fallen, she 
regarded them Both in the light of executioners. Her 
one desire, expressed with all the shameless sincerity of 
blind and thoughtless misery, was to be free of their 
hateful presence and alone — alone with her dead I 

She was weary of the doctor's subdued manly tones — 
of the nurse's commonplace motherliness, too habitually 
adapted to the needs of all to be appreciated by the 
individual — of the childish consolation of the young 
sister, who had never loved, never been married, did not 
know what sorrow was ! Their expressions of sympathy 
struck her like blows, the touch of their hands on her 
body, as they tried to raise her, stung her in every nerve. 

With a sigh of relief she buried her head in the pillow, 
pressed her body more closely against that of her hus- 
band, and lay motionless. 

Her sobs ceased. 

The lamp went out with a gurgle. The fire leaped up, 
and died. She raised her head and stared about her 
helplessly, then sinking down again she put her lips to 
the ear of the dead man. 

"Edward — dear Edward ! " she whispered, "why have 
you left me? Darling, why have you left me? J can't 
stay behind — you know I can't. I am too young to be 
left. It is only a year since you married me. I never 
thought it was only for a year. ' Till death us do part ! ' 
Yes, I know that's in it, but nobody ever thinks of that ! 
I never thought of living without you ! I meant to die 
with you. . . . 

"No — no — I can't die — I must not — till my baby is 
born. You will never see it. Don't you want to see it? 
Don't you ? Oh, Edward, speak ! Say something, 
darling, one word — one little word ! Edward ! Edward I 



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98 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

are you there? Answer me for God's sake, answer 
me! 

" Darling, I am so tired of waiting. Oh, think, dear- 
est. There is so little time. They only gave me half-an- 
hour. In half-an-hour they will come and take you away 
from me — take you where I can't come to you — with all 
my love I can't come to you I I know the place — I saw 
it once. A great lonely place full of graves, and little 
stunted trees dripping with dirty London rain . . . and 
gas-lamps flaring all round . . . but quite, quite dark 
where the grave is ... a long grey stone just like the 
rest. How could you stay there ? — all alone — all alone — 
without me? 

"Do you remember, Edward, what we once said — 
that whichever of us died first should come back to watch 
over the other, in the spirit? I promised you, and you 
promised me. What children we were ! Death is not 
what we thought. It comforted us to say that then. 

"Now, it's nothing — nothing — worse than nothing! 
I don't want your spirit — I can't see it — or feel it — I 
want you, you, your eyes that looked at me, your mouth 
that kissed me " 

She raised his arms and clasped them round her neck, 
and lay there very still, murmuring, "Oh, hold me, 
hold me I Love me if you can. Am I hateful ? This is 
me ! These are your arms. . . ." 

The doctor in the next room moved in his chair. The 
noise awoke her from her dream of contentment, and 
she unwound the dead arm from her neck, and, holding 
it up by the wrist, considered it ruefully. 

"Yes, I can put it round me, but I have to hold it 
there. It is quite cold — it doesn't care. Ah, my dear, 
you don't care ! You are dead. I kiss you, but you 
don't kiss me. Edward ! Edward ! Oh, for heaven's 
sake kiss me once. Just once ! 



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THE PRAYER 99 

"No, no, that won't do— that's not enough! that's 
nothing ! worse than nothing ! I want you back, you, 
all you. . . . What shall I do? ... I often pray, . • . 
Oh, if there be a God in heaven, and if He ever answered 
a prayer, let Him answer mine — my only prayer. I'll 
never ask another — and give you back to me ! As you 
were — as I loved you— as I adored you ! He must listen. 
He must 1 My God, my God, he's mine — he's my hus- 
band, he's my lover — give him back to me ! " 

• •••••• 

— "Left alone for half-an-hour or more with the 
corpse ! It's not right ! " 

The muttered expression of the nurse's revolted sense 
of professional decency came from the head of the stair- 
case, where she had been waiting for the last few 
minutes. The doctor joined her. 

"Hush, Mrs. Joyce ! I'll go to her now." 

The door creaked on its hinges as he gently pushed it 
open and went in. 

"What's that? What's that?" screamed Mrs. Arne. 
"Doctor! Doctor! Don't touch me! Either I am 
dead or he is alive ! " 

"Do you want to kill yourself, Mrs. Arne?" said Dr. 
Graham, with calculated sternness, coming forward; 
"come away!" 

"Not dead ! Not dead ! " she murmured. 

"He is dead, I assure you. Dead and cold an hour 
ago ! Feel ! " He took hold of her, as she lay face 
downwards, and in so doing he touched the dead man's 
cheek — it was not cold ! Instinctively his finger sought 
a pulse. 

"Stop! Wait!" he cried in his intense excitement. 
"My dear Mrs. Arne, control yourself! " 

But Mrs. Arne had fainted, and fallen heavily off the 
bed on the other sfde. Her sister, hastily summoned, 

H2 



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ioo TALES OF THE UNEASY 

attended to her, while the man they had all given over 
for dead was, with faint gasps and sighs and reluctant 
moans, pulled, as it were, hustled and dragged back 
over the threshold of life. 



II 

" Why do you always wear black, Alice ? " asked 
Esther Graham, "You are not in mourning that I 
know of." 

She was Dr. Graham's only daughter and Mrs. Arne's 
only friend. She sat with Mrs. Arne in the dreary 
drawing-room of the house in Chelsea. She had come to 
tea. She was the only person who ever did come to 
tea there. 

She was brusque, kind, and blunt, and had a talent 
for making inappropriate remarks. Six years ago Mrs. 
Arne had been a widow for an hour ! Her husband had 
succumbed to an apparently mortal illness, and for the 
space of an hour had lain dead. When suddenly and 
inexplicably he had revived from his trance, the shock, 
combined with six weeks' nursing, had nearly killed his 
wife. All this Esther had heard from her father. She 
herself had only come to know Mrs. Arne after her child 
was born, and all the tragic circumstances of her hus- 
band's illness put aside, and it was hoped forgotten. 
And when her idle question received no answer from 
the pale absent woman who sat opposite, with listless 
lack-lustre eyes fixed on the green and blue flames 
dancing in the fire, she hoped it had passed unnoticed. 
She waited for five minutes for Mrs. Arne to resume the 
conversation, then her natural impatience got the better 
of her. 

" Do say something, Alice ! " she implored. 



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THE PRAYER 101 

"Esther, I beg your pardon!" said Mrs. Arne. "I 
was thinking." 

" What were you thinking of ? " 

"I don't know." 

"No, of course you don't. People who sit and stare 
into the fire never do think, really. They are only 
brooding and making themselves ill, and that is what 
you are doing. You mope, you take no interest in any- 
thing, you never go out — I am sure you have not been 
out of doors to-day ? " 

"No — yes — I believe not. It is so cold." 

"You are sure to feel the cold if you sit in the house 
all day, and sure to get ill ! Just look at yourself ! " 

Mrs. Arne rose and looked at herself in the Italian 
mirror over the chimney-piece. It reflected faithfully 
enough her even pallor, her dark hair and eyes, the 
sweeping length of her eyelashes, the sharp curves of her 
nostrils, and the delicate arch of her eyebrows, that 
formed a thin sharp black line, so clear as to seem 
almost unnatural. 

"Yes, I do look ill," she said with conviction. 

" No wonder. You choose to bury yourself alive." 

"Sometimes I do feel as if I lived in a grave. I look 
up at the ceiling and fancy it is my coffin-lid." 

"Don't please talk like that!" expostulated Miss 
Graham, pointing to Mrs. Arne's little girl. "If only 
for Dolly's sake, I think you should not give way to 
such morbid fancies. It isn't good for her to see you 
like this always." 

"Oh, Esther," the other exclaimed, stung into some- 
thing like vivacity, "don't reproach me I I hope I am 
a good mother to my child ! " 

"Yes, dear, you are a model mother — and model wife 
too. Father says the way you look after your husband 
is something wonderful, but don't you think for your 



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102 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

own sake you might try to be a little gayer? You 
encourage these moods, don't you? What is it? Is it 
the house ? " 

She glanced around her — at the high ceiling, at the 
heavy damask portieres, the tall cabinets of china, the 
dim oak panelling — it reminded her of a neglected 
museum. Her eye travelled into the farthest corners, 
where the faint filmy dusk was already gathering, lit 
only by the bewildering cross-lights of the glass panels 
of cabinet doors — to the tall narrow windows — then back 
again to the woman in her mourning dress, cowering by 
the fire. She said sharply — 

"You should go out more." 

" I do not like to — leave my husband." 

"Oh, I know that he is delicate and all that, but still, 
does he never permit you to leave him ? Does he never 
go out by himself ? " 

"Not often!" 

"And you have no pets! It is very odd of you. I 
simply can't imagine a house without animals I " 

"We did have a dog once," answered Mrs. Arne 
plaintively, "but it howled so we had to give it away. 
It would not go near Edward. . . . But please don't 
imagine that I am dull I I have my child." She laid 
her hand on the flaxen head at her knee. 

Miss Graham rose, frowning. 

"Ah, you are too bad!" she exclaimed. "You are 
like a widow exactly, with one child, stroking its orphan 
head and saying, ' Poor fatherless darling.' " 

Voices were heard outside. Miss Graham stopped 
talking quite suddenly, and sought her veil and gloves 
on the mantelpiece. 

"You need not go, Esther," said Mrs. Arne. "It is 
only my husband." 



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THE PRAYER 103 

"Oh, but it is getting late," said the other, crumpling 
up her gloves in her muff, and shuffling her feet 
nervously. 

"Come! " said her hostess, with a bitter smile, "put 
your gloves on properly — if you must go — but it is quite 
early still." 

"Please don't go, Miss Graham," put in the child. 

"I must. Go and meet your papa, like a good girl." 

"I don't want to." 

"You mustn't talk like that, Dolly," said the doctor's 
daughter absently, still looking towards the door. Mrs. 
Arne rose and fastened the clasps of the big fur-cloak 
for her friend. The wife's white, sad, oppressed face 
came very close to the girl's cheerful one, as she mur- 
mured in a low voice — 

"You don't like my husband, Esther? I can't help 
noticing it. Why don't you ? " 

" Nonsense ! " retorted the other, with the emphasis of 
one who is repelling an overtrue accusation. "I do, 
only -" 

"Only what?" 

" Well, dear, it is foolish of me, of course, but I am — 
a little afraid of him." 

"Afraid of Edward!" said his wife slowly. "Why 
should you be ? " 

"Well, dear — you see — I — I suppose women can't help 
being a little afraid of their friends' husbands — they can 
spoil their friendships with their wives in a moment, if 
they choose to disapprove of them. I really must go ! 
Good-bye, child; give me a kiss! Don't ring, Alice. 
Please don't I I can open the door for myself " 

"Why should you ? " said Mrs. Arne. "Edward is in 
the hall ; I heard him speaking to Foster." 

"No; he has gone into his study. Good-bye, you 



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104 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

apathetic creature I " She gave Mrs. Arne a brief kiss 
and dashed out of the room. The voices outside had 
ceased, and she had reasonable hopes of reaching the 
door without being intercepted by Mrs. Arne's husband. 
But he met her on the stairs. Mrs. Arne, listening 
intently from her seat by the fire, heard her exchange a 
few shy sentences with him, the sound of which died 
away as they went downstairs together. A few moments 
after, Edward Arne came into the room and dropped into 
the chair just vacated by his wife's visitor. 

He crossed his legs and said nothing. Neither did she. 

His nearness had the effect of making the woman look 
at once several years older. Where she was pale he was 
well-coloured; the network of little filmy wrinkles that, 
on a close inspection, covered her face, had no parallel 
on his smooth skin. He was handsome; soft, well- 
groomed flakes of auburn hair lay over his forehead, and 
his steely blue eyes shone equably, a contrast to the 
sombre fire of hers, and the masses of dark crinkly hair 
that shaded her brow. The deep lines of permanent dis- 
content furrowed that brow as she sat with her chin 
propped on her hands, and her elbows resting on her 
knees. Neither spoke. When the hands of the clock 
over Mrs. Arne's head pointed to seven, the whiter 
aproned figure of the nurse appeared in the doorway, 
and the little girl rose and kissed her mother very 
tenderly. 

Mrs. Arne's forehead contracted. Looking uneasily 
at her husband, she said to the child tentatively, yet 
boldly, as one grasps a nettle, "Say good-night to your 
father ! " 

The child obeyed, saying, "Good-night" indifferently 
in her father's direction. 

"Kiss him !" 



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THE PRAYER 105 

"No, please — please not." 

Her mother looked down on her curiously, sadly. . . . 

"You are a naughty, spoilt child!" she said, but 
without conviction. "Excuse her, Edward." 

He did not seem to have heard. 

"Well, if you don't care " said his wife bitterly. 

"Come, child 1 " She caught the little girl by the hand 
and left the room. 

At the door she half turned and looked fixedly at her 
husband. It was a strange ambiguous gaze ; in it passion 
and dislike were strangely combined. Then she shivered 
arid closed the door softly after her. 

The man in the arm-chair sat with no perceptible 
change of attitude, his unspeculative eyes fixed on the 
fire, his hands clasped idly in front of him. The pose 
was obviously habitual. The servant brought lights and 
closed the shutters, drew the curtains, and made up the 
fire noisily, without, however, eliciting any reproof from 
his master. 

Edward Arne was an ideal master, as far as Foster was 
concerned. He kept cases of cigars, but never smoked 
them, although the supply had often to be renewed. He 
did not care what he ate or drank, although he kept as 
good a cellar as most gentlemen — Foster knew that. He 
never interfered, he counted for nothing, he gave no 
trouble. Foster had no intention of ever leaving such 
an easy place. True, his master was not cordial ; he very 
seldom addressed him or seemed to know whether he was 
there, but then neither did he grumble if the fire in the 
study was allowed to go out, or interfere with Foster's 
liberty in any way. He had a better place of it than 
Annette, Mrs. Arne's maid, who would be called up in 
the middle of the night to bathe her mistress's forehead 
with eau-de-Cologne, or made to brush her long hair for 



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106 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

hours together to soothe Ijer. Naturally enough Foster 
and Annette compared notes as to their respective situa- 
tions, and drew unflattering parallels between this 
capricious wife and model husband. 



III 

Miss Graham was not a demonstrative woman. On 
her return home she somewhat startled her father, as he 
sat by his study table, deeply interested in his diagnosis 
book, by the sudden violence of her embrace. 

"Why this excitement?" he asked, smiling and turn- 
ing round. He was a young-looking man for his age ; 
his thin wiry figure and clear colour belied the evidence 
on his hair, tinged with grey, and the tired wrinkles that 
gave value to the acuteness and brilliancy of the eyes 
they surrounded. 

"I don't know ! " she replied, "only you are so nice 
and alive somehow. I always feel like this when I come 
back from seeing the Ames." 

"Then don't go to see the Arnes." 

"I'm so fond of her, father, and she will never come 
here to me, as you know. Or else nothing would induce 
me to enter her tomb of a house, and talk to that walking 
funeral of a husband of hers. I managed to get away 
to-day without having to shake hands with him. I always 
try to avoid it. But, father, I do wish you would go and 
see Alice," 

"Is she ill?" 

"Well, not exactly ill, I suppose, but her eyes make 
me quite uncomfortable, and she says such odd things ! 
I don't know if it is you or the clergyman she wants, but 
she is all wrong somehow ! She never goes out except 
to church ; she never pays a call, or has any one to call 



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THE PRAYER 107 

on her I Nobody ever asks th$ Ames to dinner, and I'm 
sure I don't blame them — the sight of that man at one's 
table would spoil any party — and they never entertain. 
She is always alone. Day after day I go in and find her 
sitting over the fire, with that same brooding expression. 
I shouldn't be surprised in the least if she were to go mad 
some day. Father, what is it ? What is the tragedy of 
the house? There is one I am convinced. And yet, 
though I have been the intimate friend of that woman 
for years, I know no more about her than the man in 
the street." 

"She keeps her skeleton safe in the cupboard," said 
Dr. Graham. "I respect her for that. And please don't 
talk nonsense about tragedies. Alice Arne is only morbid 
— the malady of the age. And she is a very religious 
woman." 

"I wonder if she complains of her odious husband to 
Mr. Bligh. She is always going to his services." 

"Odious?" 

"Yes, odious 1 " Miss Graham shuddered. "I cannot 
stand him ! I cannot bear the touch of his cold froggy 
hands, and the sight of his fishy eyes ! That inane smile 
of his simply makes me shrivel up. Father, honestly, do 
you like him yourself ? " 

" My dear, I hardly know him ! It is his wife I have 
known ever since she was a child, and I a boy at college. 
Her father was my tutor. I never knew her husband till 
six years ago, when she called me in to attend him in a 
very serious illness. I suppose she never speaks of it? 
No ? A very odd affair. For the life of me I cannot tell 
how he managed to recover. You needn't tell people, for 
it affects my reputation, but I didn't save him ! Indeed 
I have never been able to account for it. The man was 
given over for dead ! " 



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108 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"He might as well be dead for all the good he is," 
said Esther scornfully. "I have never heard him say 
more than a couple of sentences in my life." 

"Yet he was an exceedingly brilliant young man ; one 
of the best men of his year at Oxford — a good deal run 
after — poor Alice was wild to marry him 1 " 

"In love with that spiritless creature? He is like a 
house with some one dead in it, and all the blinds down ! " 

"Come, Esther, don't be morbid — not to say silly! 
You are very hard on the poor man 1 What's wrong 
with him ? He is the ordinary, commonplace, cold- 
blooded specimen of humanity, a little stupid, a little 
selfish, — people who have gone through a serious illness 
like that are apt to be — but on the whole, a good husband, 
a good father, a good citizen " 

" Yes, and his wife is afraid of him, and his child hates 
him I " exclaimed Esther. 

"Nonsense ! " said Dr. Graham sharply. "The child 
is spoilt. Only children are apt to be — and the mother 
wants a change or a tonic of some kind. I'll go and talk 
to her when I have time. Go along and dress. Have 
you forgotten that George Graham is coming to dinner ? " 

After she had gone the doctor made a note on the 
corner of his blotting-pad, "Mem. : to go and see Mrs. 
Arne," and dismissed the subject of the memorandum 
entirely from his mind. 

• •..... 

George Graham was the doctor's nephew, a tall, weedy, 
cumbrous young man, full of fads and fallacies, with a 
gentle manner that somehow inspired confidence. He 
was several years younger than Esther, who loved to 
listen to his semi-scientific, semi-romantic stories of 
things met with in the course of his profession. "Oh, I 
come across very queer things ! " he would say mysteri- 
ously, "There's a queer little widow — — ! " 



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THE PRAYER 109 

"Tell me about your little widow? " asked Esther that 
day after dinner, when, her father having gone back to 
his study, she and her cousin sat together as usual. 

He laughed. 

"You like to hear of my professional experiences? 
Well, she certainly interested me," he said thoughtfully. 
"She is an odd psychological study in her way. I wish 
I could come across her again." 

"Where did you come across her, and what is her 
name ? " 

"I don't know her name, I don't want to; she is not a 
personage to me, only a case. I hardly know her face 
even. I have never seen it except in the twilight. But I 
gathered that she lived somewhere in Chelsea, for she 
came out on to the Embankment with only a kind of 
lacy thing over her head; she can't live far off, I fancy." 

Esther became instantly attentive. "Go on," she said. 

"It was three weeks ago," said George Graham. "I 
was coming along the Embankment about ten o'clpck. I 
walked through that little grove, you know, just between 
Cheyne Walk and the river, and I heard in there some 
one sobbing very bitterly. I looked and saw a woman 
sitting on a seat, with her head in her hands, crying. I 
was most awfully sorry, of course, and I thought I could 
perhaps do something for her, get her a glass of water, 
or salts, or something. I took her for a woman of the 
people — it was quite dark, you know. So I asked her 
very politely if I could do anything for her, and then I 
noticed her hands — they were quite white and covered 
with diamonds." 

"You were sorry you spoke, I suppose," said Esther. 

" She raised her head and said — I believe she laughed — 
' Are you going to tell me to move on ? * " 

" She thought you were a policeman ? " 

"Probably — if she thought at all — but she was in a 



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no TALES OF THE UNEASY 

semi-dazed condition. I told her to wait till I came back, 
and dashed round the corner to the chemist's and bought 
a bottle of salts. She thanked me, and made a little 
effort to rise and go away. She seemed very weak. I 
told her I was a medical man, I started in and talked* 
to her." 

"And she to you?" 

"Yes, quite straight. Don't you know that women 
always treat a doctor as if he were one step removed 
from their father confessor — not human — not in the same 
category as themselves ? It is not complimentary to one 
as a man, but one hears a good deal one would not other- 
wise hear. She ended by telling me all about herself — in 
a veiled way, of course. It soothed her — relieved her — 
§he seemed not to have had an outlet for years ! " 

"To a mere stranger ! " 

"To a doctor. And she did not know what she was 
saying half the time. She was hysterical, of course. 
Heavens ! what nonsense she talked I She spoke of her- 
self as a person somehow haunted, cursed by some malign 
fate, a victim of some fearful spiritual catastrophe, don't 
you know ? I let her run on. She was convinced of the 
reality pf a sort of ' doom ' that she had fancied had 
befallen her. It was quite pathetic. Then it got rather 
chilly — she shivered — I suggested her going in. She 
shrank back ; she said, * If you only knew what a relief 
it is, how much less miserable I am out here! I can 
breathe ; I can live — it is my only glimpse of the world 
that is alive — I live in a grave — oh, let me stay ! ' She 
seemed positively afraid to go home." 

"Perhaps some one bullied her at home." 

"I suppose so, but then — she had no husband. He 
died, she told me, years ago. She had adored him, she 
said " 

"Is she pretty?" 

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THE PRAYER hi 

" Pretty ! Well, I hardly noticed. Let me see ! Oh, 
yes, I suppose she was pretty — no, now I think of it, she 
would be too worn and faded to be what you call pretty." 

Esther smiled. 
* " Well, we sat there together for quite an hour, then the 
clock of Chelsea church struck eleven, and she got up 
and said ' Good-bye,' holding out her hand quite natur- 
ally, as if our meeting and conversation had been nothing 
out of the common. There was a sound like a dead leaf 
trailing across the walk and she was gone." 

"Didn't you ask if you should see her again ? " 

"That would have been a mean advantage to take." 

"You might have offered to see her home." 

"I saw she did not mean me to." 

"She was a lady, you say," pondered Esther. "How 
was she dressed ? " 

"Oh, all right, like a lady — in black — mourning, I 
suppose. She has dark crinkly hair, and her eyebrows 
are very thin and arched — I noticed that in the dusk." 

"Does this photograph remind you of her?" asked 
Esther suddenly, taking him to the mantelpiece. 

"Rather!" 

"Alice 1 Oh, it couldn't be — she is not a widow, her 
husband is alive — has your friend any children ? " 

"Yes, one, she mentioned it." 

"How old?" 

"Six years old, I think she said. She talks of the 
' responsibility of bringing up an orphan.'" 

"George, what time is it? " Esther asked suddenly. 

"About nine o'clock." 

"Would you mind coming out with me?" 

" I should like it. Where shall we go ? " 

"To St. Adhelm's ! It is close by here. There is a 
special late service to-night, and Mrs. Arne is sure to 
be there." 



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ii2 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Oh, Esther— curiosity ! " 

"No, not mere curiosity. Don't you see if it is my 
Mrs. Arne who talked to you like this, it is very serious ? 
I have thought her ill for a long time; but as ill as 
that ! " 

At St. Adhelm's Church, Esther Graham pointed out a 
woman who was kneeling beside a pillar in an attitude of 
intense devotion and abandonment. She rose from her 
knees, and turned her rapt face up towards the pulpit 
whence the Reverend Ralph Bligh was holding his im- 
passioned discourse. George Graham touched his cousin 
on the shoulder, and motioned to her to leave her place 
on the outermost rank of worshippers. 

"That is the woman ! " said he. 



IV 

"Mem.: to go and see Mrs. Arne." The doctor 
came across this note in his bldtting-pad one day six 
weeks later. His daughter was out of town. He had 
heard nothing of the Arnes since her departure. He 
had promised to go and see her. He was a little con- 
science-stricken. Yet another week elapsed before he 
found time to call upon the daughter of his old tutor. 

At the corner of Tite Street he met Mrs. Arne's hus- 
band, and stopped. A doctor's professional kindliness 
of manner is, or ought to be, independent of his personal 
likings and dislikings, and there was a pleasant cordiality 
about his greeting which should have provoked a 
corresponding fervour on the part of Edward Arne. 

" How are you, Arne ? " Graham said. " I was on my 
way to call on your wife." 

"Ah— yes!" said Edward Arne, with the ascending 
inflection of polite acquiescence. A ray of blue from his 



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THE PRAYER 113 

eyes,rested transitorily on the doctor's face, and in that 
short moment the latter noted its intolerable vacuity, and 
for the first time in his life felt a sharp pang of sympathy 
for the wife of such a husband. 

"I suppose you are off to your club? — er — good- 
bye ! " he wound up abruptly. With the best will in the 
world he somehow found it almost impossible to carry on 
a conversation with Edward Arne, who raised his hand 
to his hat-brim in token of salutation, smiled sweetly, 
and walked on. 

"He really is extraordinarily good-looking," reflected 
the doctor, as he watched him down the street and safely 
over the crossing with a certain degree of solicitude for 
which he could not exactly account. "And yet one feels 
one's vitality ebbing out at the finger-ends as one talks 
to him. I shall begin to believe in Esther's absurd 
fancies about him soon. Ah, there's the little girl ! " he 
exclaimed, as he turned into Cheyne Walk and caught 
sight of her with her nurse, making violent demonstra- 
tions to attract his attention. "She is alive, at any rate. 
How is your mother, Dolly ? " he asked. 

"Quite well, thank you," was the child's reply. She 
added, "She's crying. She sent me away because I 
looked at her. So I did. Her cheeks are quite red." 

"Run away — run away and play 1 " said the doctor 
nervously. He ascended the steps of the house, and 
rang the bell very gently and neatly. 

"Not at " began Foster, with the intonation of 

polite falsehood, but stopped on seeing the doctor, who, 
with his daughter, was a privileged person. " Mrs. Arrre 
will see you, Sir." 

"Mrs. Arne is not alone? " he said interrogatively. 

"Yes, Sir, quite alone. I have just taken tea in." 

Dr. Graham's doubts were prompted by the low 
murmur as of a voice, or voices, which came to him 
1 



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U4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

through the open door of the room at the head of the 
stairs. He paused and listened while Foster stood by, 
merely remarking, "Mrs. Arne do talk to herself some- 
times, Sir." 

It was Mrs. Arne's voice — the doctor recognized it 
now. It was not the voice of a sane or healthy woman. 
He at once mentally removed his visit from the category 
of a morning call, and prepared for a semi-professional 
inquiry. 

"£)on't announce me," he said to Foster, and quietly 
entered the back drawing-room, which was separated by 
a heavy tapestry portiere from the room where Mrs. Arne 
sat, with an open book on the table before her, from 
which she had been apparently reading aloud. Her 
hands were now clasped tightly over her face, and when, 
presently, she removed them and began feverishly to 
turn page after page of her book, the crimson of her 
cheeks was seamed with white where her fingers had 
impressed themselves. 

The doctor wondered if she saw him, for though her 
eyes were fixed in his direction, there was no apprehen- 
sion in them. She went on reading, and it was the text, 
mingled with passionate interjection and fragmentary 
utterances, of the Burial Service that met his ears. 

"'For as in Adam all die ! * All die ! It says all ! 
For he must reign. . . . The last enemy that shall be 
destroyed is Death. What shall they do if the dead rise 
not at all ! ... I die daily ... 1 Daily ! No, no, 
better get it over . . . dead and buried . . . out of 
sight, out of mind . . . under a stone. Dead men don't 
come back. ... Go on ! Get it over. I want to hear 
the earth rattle on the coffin, and then I shall know it is 
done. N< Flesh and blood cannot inherit ! ' Oh, what 
did I do ? What have I done ? Why did I wish it so 



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THE PRAYER 115 

fervently ? Why did I pray for it so earnestly ? God 
gave me my wish " 

"Alice ! Alice ! " groaned the doctor. 

She looked up. "'When this corruptible shall have 

put on incorruption ' ' Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, 

earth to earth ' Yes, that is it. ' After death, 

though worms destroy this body ' " 

She flung the book aside and sobbed. 

"That is what I was afraid of. My God ! My God ! 
Down there — in the dark — for ever and ever and ever ! 
I could not bear to think of it ! My Edward I And so 
I interfered . . . and prayed . . . and prayed till . . . 
Oh ! I am punished. Flesh and blood could not in- 
herit 1 I kept him there — I would not let him go. . . . 
I kept him. ... I prayed. ... I denied him Christian 
burial. . . . Oh, how could I know. . . ." 

"Good heavens, Alice 1 " said Graham, coming 
sensibly forward, " what does this mean ? I have heard 
of schoolgirls going through the marriage service by 
themselves, but the burial service " 

He laid down his hat and went on severely, "What 
have you to do with such things ? Your child is flourish- 
ing — your husband alive and here " 

"And who kept him here?" interrupted Alice Arne 
fiercely, accepting the fact of his appearance without 
comment. 

"You did," he answered quickly, "with your care and 
tenderness. I believe the warmth of your body, as you 
lay beside him for that half-hour, maintained the vital 
heat during that extraordinary suspension of the heart's 
action, which made us all give him up for dead. You 
were his best doctor, and brought him back to us." 

"Yes, it was I — it was I — you need not tell me it 
was I ! " 
1 2 



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u6 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Come, be thankful ! " he said cheerfully. "Put that 
book away, and give me some tea, I'm very cold." 

"Oh, Dr. Graham, how thoughtless of me!" said 
Mrs. Arne, rallying at the slight imputation on her 
politeness he had purposely made. She tottered to the 
bell and rang it before he could anticipate her. 

"Another cup," she said quite calmly to Foster, who 
answered it. Then she sat down quivering all over with 
the suddenness of the constraint put upon her. 

"Yes, sit down and tell me all about it," said Dr. 
Graham good-humouredly, at the same time observing 
her with the closeness he gave to difficult cases. 

"There is nothing to tell," she said simply, shaking her 
head, and futilely altering the position of the tea-cups 
on the tray. " It all happened years ago. Nothing can 
be done now. Will you have sugar ? " 

He drank his tea and made conversation. He talked 
to her of some Dante lectures she was attending ; of some 
details connected with her child's Kindergarten classes. 
These subjects did not interest her. There was a sub- 
ject she wished to discuss, he could see that a question 
trembled on her tongue, and tried to lead up to it. 

She introduced it herself, quite quietly, over a second 
cup. "Sugar, Dr. Graham? I forget. Dr. Graham, 
tell me, do you believe that prayers — wicked unreason- 
able prayers — are granted ? " 

He helped himself to another slice of bread and butter 
before answering. 

"Well," he said slowly, "it seems hard to believe that 
every fool who has a voice to pray with, and a brain 
where to conceive idiotic requests with, should be per- 
mitted to interfere with the economy of the universe. 
As a rule, if people were long-sighted enough to see the 
result of their petitions, I fancy very few of us would 
venture to interfere." 



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THE PRAYER 117 

Mrs. Arne groaned. 

She was a good Churchwoman, Graham knew, and he 
did not wish to sap her faith in any way, so he said no 
more, but inwardly wondered if a too rigid interpreta- 
tion of some of the religious dogmas of the Vicar of 
St. Adhelm's, her spiritual adviser, was not the clue to 
her distress. Then she put another question — 

"Eh! What?" he said. "Do I'believe in ghosts? 
I will believe you if you will tell me you have seen one." 

"You know, Doctor," she went on, "I was always 
afraid of ghosts — of spirits — things unseen. I couldn't 
ever read about them. I could not bear the idea of some 
one in the room with me that I could not see. There 
was a text that always frightened me that hung up in 
my room : ' Thou, God, seest me ! ' It frightened me 
when I was a child, whether I had been doing wrong 
or not. But now," shuddering, "I think there are worse 
things than ghosts." 

"Well, now, what sort of things?" he asked good- 
humouredly . " Astral bodies ? " 

She leaned forward and laid her hot hand on his. 

"Oh, Doctor, tell me, if a spirit — without the body 
we know it by — is terrible, what of a body " — her voice 
sank to a whisper, "a body — senseless — lonely — stranded 
on this earth — without a spirit ? " 

She was watching his face anxiously. He was divided 
between a morbid inclination to laugh and the feeling 
of intense discomfort provoked by this wretched scene. 
He longed to give the conversation a more cheerful turn, 
yet did not wish tp offend her by changing it too 
abruptly. 

" I have heard of people not being able to keep body 
and soul together," he replied at last, "but I am not 
aware that practically such a division of forces has ever 
been achieved. And if we could only accept the theory 



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u8 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

of the de-spiritualized body, what a number of anti- 
pathetic people now wandering about in the world it 
would account for ! " 

The piteous gaze of her eyes seemed to seek to ward 
off the blow of his misplaced jocularity. He left his 
seat and sat down on the couch beside her. 

" Poor child ! poor girl ! you are ill, you are over- 
excited. What is it ? Tell me," he asked her as tenderly 
as the father she had lost in early life might have done. 
Her head sank on his shoulder. 

"Are you unhappy? " he asked her gently. 

"Yes!" 

"You are too mych alone. Get your mother or your 
sister to come and stay with you." 

" They won't come," she wailed. " They say the house 
is like a grave. Edward has made himself a study in 
the basement. It's an impossible room — but he has 
moved all his things in, and I can't — I won't go to him 
there. ..." 

"You're wrong. For it's only a fad," said Graham, 
"he'll tire of it. And you must see more people some- 
how. It's a pity my daughter is away. Had you any 
visitors to-day ? " 

"Not a soul has crossed the threshold for eighteen 
days." 

"We must change all that," said the doctor vaguely. 
" Meantime you must cheer up. Why, you have no need 
to think of ghosts and graves — no need to be melancholy 
— you have your husband and your child " 

" I have my child — yes." 

The doctor took hold of Mrs. Arne by the shoulder, 
and held her a little away from him. He thought he had 
found the cause of her trouble — a more commonplace 
one than he had supposed. 



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THE PRAYER 119 

"I have known you, Alice, since you were a child," 
he said gravely. "Answer me! You love your hus- 
band, don't you?" 

"Yes." It was as if she were answering futile prefa- 
tory questions in the witness-box. Yet he saw by the 
intense excitement in her eyes that he had come to the 
point she feared, and yet desired to bring forward. 

"And he loves you?" 

She was silent. 

"Well, then, if you love each other, what more can 
you want ? Why do you say you have only your child 
in that absurd way ? " 

She was still silent, and he gave her a little shake. 

" Tell me, have you and he had any difference lately ? 
Is there any — coldness — any — temporary estrangement 
between you ? " 

He was hardly prepared for the burst of foolish 
laughter that proceeded from the demure Mrs. Arne as 
she rose and confronted him, all the blood in her body 
seeming for the moment to rush to her usually pale 
cheeks. 

" Coldness ! Temporary estrangement ! If that were 
all ! Oh, is every one blind but me ? There is all the 
world between us ! — all the difference between this world 
and the next I " 

She sat down again beside the doctor and whispered 
in his ear, and her words were like a breath of hot wind 
from some Gehenna of the soul. 

"Oh, Doctor, I have borne it for six years, and I must 
speak. No other woman could bear what I have borne, 
and yet be alive ! And I loved him so; you don't know 
how I loved him ! That was it — that was my crime " 

"Crime?" repeated the doctor. 

"Yes, crime! It was impious, don't you see? But 



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120 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

I have been punished. Oh, Doctor, you don't know 
what my life is! Listen! Listen! I must tell you. 

To live with a At first before I guessed when I used 

to put my arms round him, and he merely submitted — 
and then it dawned on me what I was kissing ! It is 
enough to turn a living woman into stone — for I am 
living, though sometimes I forget it. Yes, I am a live 
woman, though I live in a grave. Think what it is ! — 
to wonder every night if you will be alive in the morning, 
to lie down every night in an open grave — to smell death 
in every corner — every room — to breathe death — to 
touch it. . . ." 

The portiere in front of the door shook, a hoopstick 
parted it, a round white clad bundle supported on a pair 
of mottled red legs peeped in, pushing a hoop in front 
of her. The child made no noise. Mrs. Arne seemed 
to have heard her, however. She slewed round violently 
as she sat on the sofa beside Dr. Graham, leaving her 
hot hands clasped in his. 

"You ask Dolly," she exclaimed. "She knows it, too 
— she feels it." 

"No, no, Alice, this won't do ! " the doctor adjured her 
very low. Then he raised his voice and ordered the 
child from the room. He had managed to lift Mrs. 
Arne's feet and laid her full length on the sofa by the 
time the maid reappeared. She had fainted. 

He pulled down her eyelids and satisfied himself as 
to certain facts he had up till now dimly apprehended. 
When Mrs. Arne's maid returned, he gave her mistress 
over to her care and proceeded to Edward Arne's new 
study in the basement. 

" Morphia ! " he muttered to himself, as he stumbled 
and faltered through gaslit passages, where furtive 
servants eyed him and scuttled to their burrows. 



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THE PRAYER 121 

"What is he burying himself down here for?" he 
thought. "Is it to get out of her way? They are a 
nervous pair of them ! " 

Arne was sunk in a large arm-chair drawn up before 
the fire. There was no other light, except a faint reflec- 
tion from the gas-lamp in the road, striking down past 
the iron bars of the window that was sunk below the level 
of the street. The room was comfortless and empty, 
there was little furniture in it except a large bookcase at 
Arne's right hand and a table with a Tantalus on it 
standing some way off. There was a faded portrait in 
pastel of Alice Arne over the mantelpiece, and beside 
it, a poor pendant, a pen and ink sketch of the master of 
the house. They were quite discrepant, in size and 
medium, but they appeared to look at each other with 
the stolid attentiveness of newly married people. 

"Seedy, Arne?" Graham said. 

"Rather, to-day. Poke the fire for me, will 
you?" 

"I've known you quite seven years," said the doctor 
cheerfully, "so I presume I can do that. . . . There, 

now 1 . . . And I'll presume further What have 

we got here ? " 

He took a small bottle smartly out of Edward Arne's 
fingers and raised his eyebrows. Edward Arne had 
rendered it up agreeably; he did not seem upset or 
annoyed. 

"Morphia. It isn't a habit. I only got hold of the 
stuff yesterday — found it about the house. Alice was 
very jumpy all day, and communicated her nerves to me, 
I suppose. I've none as a rule, but do you know, 
Graham, I seem to be getting them — feel things a good 
deal more than I did, and want to talk about them." 



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122 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"What, are you growing a soul?" said the doctor 
carelessly, lighting a cigarette. 

"Heaven forbid!" Arne answered equably. "I've 
done very well without it all these years. But I'm fond 
of old Alice, you know, in my own way. When I was 
a young man, I was quite different. I took things hardly 
and got excited about them. Yes, excited. I was wild 
about Alice, wild ! Yes, by Jove ! though she has for- 
gotten all about it." 

"Not that, but still it's natural she should long for 
some little demonstration of affection now and then 
. . . and she'd be awfully distressed if she saw you 
fooling with that bottle of morphia ! You know, Arne, 
after that narrow squeak you had of it five years ago, 
Alice and I have a good right to consider that your life 
belongs to us ! " 

Edward Arne settled in his chair and replied, rather 
fretfully— 

"All very well, but you didn't manage to do the job 
thoroughly. You didn't turn me out lively enough to 
please Alice. She's annoyed because when I take her 
in my arms, I don't hold her tight enough. I'm too 
quiet, too languid ! . . . Hang it all, Graham, I believe 
she'd like me to stand for Parliament ! . . . Why can't 
she let me just go along my own way? Surely a man 
who's come through an illness like mine can be let off 
parlour tricks ? All this worry — it culminated the other 
day when I said I wanted to colonize a room down here, 
and did, with a spurt that took it out of me horribly, — 
all this worry, I say, seeing her upset and so on, keeps 
me low, and so I feel as if I wanted to take drugs to 
soothe me." » 

"Soothe!" said Graham. "This stuff is more than 
soothing if you take enough of it. I'll send you some- 



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THE PRAYER 123 

thing more like what you want, and I'll take this away, 
by your leave." 

"I really can't argue!" replied Arne. ... "If you 
see Alice, tell her you find me fairly comfortable and 
don't put her off this room. I really like it best. She 
can come and see me here, I keep a good fire, tell her. 
... I feel as if I wanted to sleep . . ." he added brusquely. 

"You have been indulging already," said Graham 
softly. Arne had begun to doze off. His cushion had 
sagged down, the doctor stooped to rearrange it, care- 
lessly laying the little phial for the moment in a crease 
of the rug covering the man's knees. 

Mrs. Arne in her mourning dress was crossing the 
hall as he came to the top of the basement steps and 
pushed open the swing door. She was giving some 
orders to Foster, the butler, who disappeared as the 
doctor advanced. 

"You're about again," he said, "good girl 1 " 

"Too silly of me," she said, "to be hysterical ! After 
all these years ! One should be able to keep one's own 
counsel. But it is over now, I promise I will never speak 
of it again." 

" We frightened poor Dolly dreadfully. I had to order 
her out like a regiment of soldiers." 

"Yes, I know. I'm going to her now." 

On his suggestion that she should look in) on her 
husband first she looked askance. 

"Down there!" 

"Yes, that's his fancy. Let him be. He is a good 
deal depressed about himself and you. He notices a 
great deal more than you think. He isn't quite «as 
apathetic as you describe him to be. . . . Come here ! " 
He led her int£> the unlit dining-room a little way. " You 



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i2 4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

expect too much, my dear. You do really ! You make 
too many demands on the vitality you saved." 

"What did one save him for?" she asked fiercely. 
She continued more quietly, " I know. I am going to 
be different." 

"Not you," said Graham fondly. He was very partial 
to Alice Arne in spite of her silliness. "You'll worry 
about Edward till the end of the chapter. I know you. 
And" — he turned her round by the shoulder so that 
she fronted the light in the hall — "you elusive thing, let 
me have a good look at you. . . . Hum I Your eyes, 
they're a bit starey. . . ." 

He let her go again with a sigh of impotence. Some- 
thing must be done . . . soon ... he must think. . . . 
He got hold of his coat and began to get into it. . . . 

Mrs. Arne smiled, buttoned a button for him and then 
opened the front door, like a good hostess, a very little 
way. With a quick flirt of his hat he was gone, and 
she heard the clap of his brougham door and the order 
"Home." 

• •••••• 

"Been saying good-bye to that thief Graham?" said 
her husband gently, when she entered his room, her 
pale eyes staring a little, her thin hand busy at the front 
of her dress. . . . 

"Thief? Why? One moment! Where's your 
switch ? " 

She found it and turned on a blaze of light from 
which her husband seemed to shrink. 

" Well, he carried off my drops. Afraid of my poison- 
ing myself, I suppose ? " 

"Or acquiring the morphia habit," said his wife in a 
dull level voice, "as I have." 

She paused. He made no comment. Then, picking 



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THE PRAYER 125 

up the little phial Dr. Graham had left in the crease of 
the rug, she spoke — 

"You are the thief, Edward, as it happens, this is 
mine." 

"Is it? I found it knocking about : I didn't know it 
was yours. Well, will you give me some ? " 

"I will, if you like." 

"Well, dear, decide. You know I am in your hands 
and Graham's. He was rubbing that into me to-day." 

"Poor lamb ! " she said derisively; "I'd not allow my 
doctor, or my wife either, to dictate to me whether I 
should put an end to myself, or not." 

"Ah, but you've got a spirit, you see ! " Arne yawned. 
"However, let me have a go at the stuff and then you 
put it on top of a wardrobe or a shelf, where I shall 
know it is, but never reach out to get it, I promise you." 

"No, you wouldn't reach out a hand to keep yourself 
alive, let alone kill yourself," said she. "That is you 
all over, Edward." 

"And don't you see that is why I did die," he said, 
with earnestness unexpected by her. "And then, un- 
fortunately, you and Graham bustled up and wouldn't 
let Nature take its course. ... I rather wish you hadn't 
been so officious." 

"And let you stay dead," said she carelessly. "But 
at the time I cared for you so much that I should have 
had to kill myself, or commit suttee like a Bengali 
widow. Ah, well ! " 

She reached out for a glass half-full of water that stood 
on the low ledge of a bookcase close by the arm of his 
chair. . . . "Will this glass do? What's in it? Only 
water? How much morphia shall I give you? An 
over dose ? " 

"I don't care if you do, and that's a fact." 



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126 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

" It was a joke, Edward," she said piteously . 

"No joke to me. This fag end of life I've clawed hold 
of, doesn't interest me. And I'm bound to be interested 
in what Fm doing or Fm no good. Fm no earthly good 
now. I don't enjoy life, Fve nothing to enjoy it with 
— in here" — he struck his breast. "It's like a dull 
party one goes to by accident. All I want to do is to 
get into a cab and go home." 

His wife stood over him with the half-full glass in one 
hand and the little bottle in the other. Her eyes dilated 
. . . her chest heaved. . . . 

" Edward ! " she breathed. " Was it all so useless ? " 

" Was what useless ? Yes, as I was telling you, I go 
as one in a dream — a bad, bad dream, like the dreams 
I used to have when I overworked at college. I was 
brilliant, Alice, brilliant, do you hear? At some cost, 
I expect ! Now I hate people — my fellow creatures. 
Fve left them. They come and go, jostling me, and 
pushing me, on the pavements as I go along, avoiding 
them. Do you know where they should be, really, in 
relation to me ? " 

He rose a little in his seat — she stepped nervously 
aside, made as if to put down the bottle and the glass 
she was holding, then thought better of it and continued 
to extend them mechanically. 

"They should be over my head. Fve already left 
them and their petty nonsense of living. They mean 
nothing to me, no more than if they were ghosts walking. 
Or perhaps it's I who am a ghost to them? . . . You 
don't understand it. It's because I suppose you have 
no imagination. You just know what you want and do 
your best to get it. You blurt out your blessed petition 
to your Deity and the idea that you're irrelevant never 
enters your head, soft, persistent, High Church thing 
that you are ! . . ." 



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THE PRAYER 127 

Alice Arne smiled, and balanced the objects she was 
holding. He motioned her to pour out the liquid from 
one to the other, but she took no heed; she was listen- 
ing with all her ears. It was the nearest approach to 
the language of compliment, to anything in the way of 
loverlike personalities that she had heard fall from his 
lips since his illness. He went on, becoming as it were 
lukewarm to his subject — 

"But the worst of it is that once break the cord that 
links you to humanity — it can't be mended. Man 
doesn't live by bread alone ... or lives to disappoint 
you. What am I to you, without my own poor person- 
ality? . . . Don't stare so, Alice! I haven't talked so 
much or so intimately for ages, have I? Let me try 
and have it out. . . . Are you in any sort of hurry ? " 

"No, Edward." 

"Pour that stuff out and have done. . . . Well, Alice, 
it's a queer feeling, I tell you. One goes about with 
one's looks on the ground, like a man who eyes the 
bed he is going to lie down in, and longs for. Alice, 
the crust of the earth seems a barrier between me and 
my own place. I want to scratch the boardings with my 
nails and shriek something like this : * Let me get down 
to you all, there where I belong ! ' It's a horrible sensa- 
tion, like a vampire reversed ! . . ." 

"Is that why you insisted on having this room in 
the basement ? " she asked breathlessly. 

"Yes, I can't bear being upstairs, somehow. Here, 
with these barred windows and stone-cold floors ... I 
can see the people's feet walking above there in the street 
. . . one has some sort of illusion. ..." 

"Oh ! " She shivered and her eyes travelled like those 
of a caged creature round the bare room and fluttered 
when they rested on the sombre windows imperiously 
barred. She dropped her gaze to the stone flags that 



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128 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

showed beyond the oasis of Turkey carpet on which 
Arne's chair stood. . . . Then to the door, the door 
that she had closed on entering. It had heavy bolts, 
but they were not drawn against her, though by the look 
of her eyes it seemed she half imagined they were. . . . 

She made a step forward and moved her hands slightly. 
She looked down on them and what they held . . . then 
changed the relative positions of the two objects and 
held the bottle over the glass. . . . 

"Yes, come along!" her husband said. "Are you 
going to be all day giving it me ? " 

With a jerk, she poured the liquid out into a glass and 
handed it to him. She looked away — towards the 
door. . . . 

" Ah, your way of escape ! " said he, following her 
eyes. Then he drank, painstakingly. 

The empty bottle fell out of her hands. She wrung 
them, murmuring — 

"Oh, if I had only known ! " 

"Known what? That I should go near to cursing 
you for bringing me back ? " 

He fixed his cold eyes on her, as the liquid passed 
slowly over his tongue. . . . 

" — Or that you would end by taking back the gift you 
gave ? " 



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THE COACH 



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THE COACH 

It was a lonely part of the country, far north, where 
the summer nights are pale and light and scant of shade. 
This summer night there was no moon, and yet it was not 
dark. For hours the flat, deprecating earth had lain 
prone under a storm of wind and rain. Its patient sur- 
face was drenched, blanched, smitten into blindness. The 
tumbled waters of the Firth splashed on the edges of the 
plain, their wild commotion dwarfed by the noise of the 
wind-driven showers, whose gloomy drops tapped the 
waters into sullen acquiescence. Half a mile inland the 
road to the north was laid. Clear and straight it ran, 
with never a house or homestead to break it, viscous with 
clay here, shining with quartz there, uncompromising, 
exact, like the lists of old, dressed for a tourney. Its sides 
were bare, scantily garnished with grass. This was 
nearly a hedgeless country. In places the undeviating 
line of it passed through a little coppice or clump of 
gnarled, ill-conditioned, nameless trees. They seemed to 
lean forward vindictively on either side, snapping their 
horny fingers at each other, waving their cantankerous 
branches as the gusts took them, broke them, and whirled 
the fragments of their ruin far away and out of ken, like 
a flapping, unruly kite which a child has allowed to pass 
beyond his control. The broad white surface of the road 
was not suffered to be blotted for a single moment. 
Nothing could rest for the play of the intriguing air- 
currents, surging backwards and forwards, blind, stupid 
k 2 131 



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132 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and swelled with pride, till they had got completely out 
of hand and defied the archers of the middle sky. They 
staggered hither and thither like ineffectual giants ; they 
buffeted all impartially; they instigated the hapless 
branches at their mercy to wild lashings of each other, 
to useless accesses of the spirit of self-destruction. Bend- 
ing slavishly under the heavy gusts, each shabby blade 
of grass by the roadside rose again and was on the qui 
vive after the rustling tyrant had passed. 

It was then, in the succeeding moments of comparative 
peace, when the directors of the passionate aerial revolt 
had managed to call their panting rabble off for the time, 
that great perpendicular sheets of rain, like stage films 
slung evenly from heavenly temples, descended and 
began moving continuously sideways, like a wall, across 
the level track. A sheet of whole water, blotting out the 
tangled borders of herbage that grew sparsely round the 
heaps of stones with which the margin was set at in- 
tervals, placed there ready for breaking. When the slab 
of rain had moved on again, the broad road, shining out 
sturdily with its embedded quartz and milky kneaded 
clay, lay clear once more. Calm, ordered and tranquil in 
the midst of tumult and discord, it pursued its appointed 
course, edging off from its evenly bevelled sides the noisy 
moorland streams, that had come jostling each other in 
their haste to reach it, only to be relegated, noisily com- 
plaining, to the swollen, unrecognizable gutter. 

At a certain point on the line of way, a tall, spare, 
respectable-looking man in a well-fitting grey frock coat 
stood waiting. The rain ran down the back of his coat 
collar, and dripped off the rim of his tall hat. His attitude 
suggested some weary foredone clerk waiting at the 
corner of the city street for the omnibus that was to carry 
him home to his slippered comfort and sober pipe of 



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THE COACH 133 

peace. He wore no muffler, but then it was summer — St. 
John's Eve, He leaned on an ivory-headed ebony stick 
of which he seemed fond, and peered, not very eagerly, 
along the road, which now lay in dazzling rain-washed 
clarity under the struggling moon. There was a lull in 
the storm. He had no luggage, no umbrella, yet his 
grey coat looked neat, and his hat shiny. 

Far in the distance, from the south, a black clumsy 
object appeared, labouring slowly along. It was a coach, 
of heavy and antique pattern. As soon as he had sighted 
it, the passenger's faint interest seemed diminished. 
With a bored air of fulfilment, he dropped his eyes and 
looked down disapprovingly at the clayey mud at his feet, 
although, indeed, the sticky substance did not appear to 
have marred the exquisite polish of his shoes. His palm 
settled composedly on the ivory knob of his trusty stick, 
as though it were the hand of an old friend. 

With all the signs of difficult going, but no noise of 
straining or grinding, the coach at last drew up in front 
of the expectant passenger. He looked up quietly, and 
recognized it as the vehicle wherein it was appointed that 
he should travel in this unsuitable weather for a stage 
or two, maybe. All was correct, the coachman, grave, 
business-like, headless as of usage, the horses long-tailed, 
black, conventional. . . . 

The door opened noiselessly, and the step was let 
down. The passenger shook his head as he delicately 
put his foot on to it, and observed for the benefit, 
doubtless, of the person or persons inside — 

"I see old Joe on the box in his official trim. Rather 
unnecessary, all this ceremony, I venture to think ! A 
few yokels and old women to impress, if indeed, any one 
not positively obliged is abroad on a night like this ! 
For form's sake, I suppose ! " 



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134 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He took his seat next the window. There were four 
occupants of the coach beside himself. They all nodded 
formally, but not unkindly. He returned their saluta- 
tions with old-fashioned courtesy, though unacquainted 
seemingly with any of them. 

Sitting next to him was a woman evidently of fashion. 
Her heavy and valuable furs were negligently cast on 
one side, to show a plastron covered with jewels. She 
wore at least two enamelled and jewel-encrusted watches 
pinned to her bosom as a mark for thieves to covet. It 
was foolish of her. So at least thought the man in the 
grey frock coat. Her yellow wig was much awry. Her 
eyes were weak, strained, and fearful, and she aided their 
vision with a diamond-beset pince-nez. Now and again 
she glanced over her left shoulder as if in some alarm, 
and at such times she always grasped her gold-net reticule 
feverishly. She was obviously a rich woman in the 
world, a first-class train-de-luxe passenger. 

The woman opposite her belonged as unmistakably to 
the people. She was hard-featured, worn with a life 
of sordid toil and calculation, but withal stout and 
motherly, a figure to inspire the fullest confidence. She 
wore a black bonnet with strings, and black silk gloves 
heavily darned. Round her sunken white collar, a golden 
gleam of watch-chain was now and then discernible. 

At the other end of the coach, squeezed up into the 
corner where the vacillating light of the lamp hung from 
the roof least penetrated, a neat, sharp-featured man 
nestled and hid. His forehead retreated, and his bowler 
hat was set unnecessarily far back, lending him an air of 
folly and congenital weakness which his long, cold, clever 
nose could not dissipate. He was white as old enamel. 

But the man whom the gentleman in the frock coat 
took to among his casual fellow-travellers was the 



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THE COACH 135 

one sitting directly opposite him, a rough, hearty crea- 
ture, who alone of all the taciturn coachful seemed dis- 
posed to enter into a casual conversation, which might 
go some way to enliven the dreariness entailed by this 
somewhat old-fashioned mode of travelling. Gay talk 
might help to drown the dashing of the waters of the 
Firth lying close on the right hand of the section of road 
they were even now traversing, and the ugly roar of the 
wind and rain against the windows. This — by com- 
parison — cheerful fellow was dressed like a working man, 
in a shabby suit of corduroys. He wore no collar, but 
a twisted red cotton handkerchief was wound tightly 
round his thick squat neck. His little mean eyes, swinish, 
but twinkling good-humouredly, stared enviously at the 
neat gentleman's stiff collar and the delicate grey tones 
of his suiting. Crossing and uncrossing his creasy legs, 
in the unusual effort of an attempt at conviviality, the 
man in corduroys addressed the man in the frock coat 
awkwardly enough, but still civilly. 

"Well, mate ! They've chosen a rare rough night to 
shift us on ! Orders from headquarters, I suppose ? I've 
been here nigh on a year and never set eyes on my boss ! " 

"We used to call him God the Father," said the elder 
man slowly. . . . "But whoever it is that orders our 
ways here, there is no earthly sense in questioning His 
arrangements, we can only fall in with them. As you 
admit, you are fairly new, and perhaps you do not as yet 
conceive fully of the silent impelling force that sways us. 
It is the same in the world we have left, only that there 
we were only concerned with the titles and standing of 
our ' boss,' as you call Him, and obeyed His laws not a 
whit. I must say I consider this particular system of 
soul transference that we have to submit to, very un- 
settling and productive of restlessness among us — a mere 



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136 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

survival and tiresome superstition, to my mind. It has 
one merit ; one sees something of the under world, travel- 
ling about as we do, and meeting chance, perhaps kindred 
spirits on the road. One realizes, too, that Hades is not 
quite as grey, shall I say, as it is painted ! But perhaps," 
he added, with a slight touch of class hauteur, "you do 
not quite foHow me ? " 

"Oh yes, Master, I do," eagerly replied the fellow- 
traveller to whom he chose to address his monologue. 
"Since I've been dead, I have learned the meaning of 
many things. I turn up my nose at nothing these days. 
I always neglected my schooling, but now I tell you I 
try to make up for lost time. From a rough sort of fellow 
that I was, with not an idea in my head beyond my beer 
and my prog, I have come to take my part in the whole 
of knowledge. It was all mine before, so to speak, but 
I didn't trouble to put my hand out for it. Didn't care, 
didn't listen to Miss that taught me, or to Parson, either. 
He had some good ideas too, as Pve come to know, 
though Vice isn't Vice exactly with us here, now, in a 
manner of speaking. If God Almighty made us, why did 
He make us, even in parts, bad? That's what I want 
to know, and I'll know that when I've been dead a bit 
longer. Why did He give me rotten teeth so that I 
couldn't chew properly and didn't care for my food and 
liked drink better? It's dirt and digestion makes drink- 
ing and devilry, I say." 

The smart woman interrupted him with a kind of 
languid eagerness, exclaiming — 

"I must say I agree with you. Since the pestle fell 
on my shoulder in that lonely villa at Monte, I have 
realized what the dreadful gambling fever may lead to. 
It had made those two who treated me so ill, quite 
inhuman;' They had become wild beasts. I ought never 
to have accepted their treacherous invitation to luncheon, 



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THE COACH 137 

never tempted them with my outrageous display of 
jewels ! And look here, I was tarred with the same stick, 
I gambled too " 

She rummaged in her reticule and fished out a ticket 
for the rooms at Monte Carlo. 

"I always call that the ticket for my execution. 
Though my executioners were rather unnecessarily 
brutal. They will attain unto this place more easily than 
I did. Hardly any pain. The hand of the law is gentle, 
compared with the methods of " 

The man in the grey frock coat raised his finger 
warningly. "No names, I beg. One of our conven- 
tions ... ! " 

" Have a drop ? " said the calm motherly woman to the 
excited fine lady. "Your wound is recent, isn't it? 
Yours was a very severe case ! A bloody murder, I call 
it, if ever there was one, and clumsy at that ! And you 
only passive, which is always so much harder, they say 1 
I can't tell, for I was what you may call an active party. 
They don't seem to mind mixing, they that look after us 
herel They lump us all together — travelling, at any 
rate ! Though when I think of what I was actually turned 
off ior l well — the way I look at it, what I did was a 
positive benefit to Society, and some sections of Society 
knew it, too, and would have liked to preserve my life." 

"But what, Madam, if I may ask, was your little 
difficulty ? " 

"It is called, I believe, Baby Farming," she replied 
off-handedly, receiving her flask back from the smart 
woman and stowing it away in a capacious pocket. As 
she spoke, a shudder like a transitory ripple on a rain- 
swept stream passed over her hearers, with the exception 
of the thin man in the far corner, who preserved his 
serenity. Raising his sunken chin, he observed the last 
speaker with some slight show of interest. 



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138 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The man in grey apologized. 

"Excuse us, Madam. A remnant of old-world 
squeamishness, uncontrollable by us for the moment. 
Though perhaps, if you will, you might a little dissipate 
our preconceived motions of your profession, by explain- 
ing clearly your point of view." 

"Delighted, I'm sure," she answered. "Funny, 
though, how seriously you all take it, even here ! The 
feeling against my profession seems absurdly strong 
below as well as above. I was hooted as I left the court, 
I recollect. It annoyed me then considerably. I thought 
that those that hooted had more need to be grateful to me 
if all was known and paid for. I saved their pockets for 
them and their lovely honour too. They knew they 
owed all that to me. For the rest, they did not care. They 
went on, bless 'em, raising up seed for me to mow down 
as soon as its head came above ground, and welcome ! 
Sly dogs, no thanks from them ! But those shivering, 
shrinking women that came to me, some of them hardly 
out of their teens, some of them so delicate they had no 
right to have a baby at all ! — Ah, if only I hadn't let 
myself take their money it would have been a work of 
pure philanthropy. But I had to live, then ! Now that 
that tax has been taken off, one has time to think it out 
all round. But Lord ! — Society, to cry shame on me for 
it I They might as well hang any other useful public 
servant, like dustmen, rat-catchers, and such-like ridders 
of pests. Good old Herod, that I used to hear about at 
school, knew what he was doing when he cleared off all 
those useless Innocents ! He was the first baby farmer, 
I guess." 

"You take large ground, Madam," said the man in the 
frock coat, a trifle huffily. 

"And I have the right; " said she, her large determined 
chin emerging from its rolls of fat in her eagerness. 



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THE COACH 139 

"You men ought to know it, and you do well enough, 
when you're honest. I was only the 'scapegoat, and took 
on me the little sins of the race. It's an easy job enough, 
what I did, but there's few have the stomach for it, even 
then. You couldn't call it dirty work either. You just 
stand by and leave 'em alone — to girn and bleat and 
squinny and die." 

"No blood, eh ? " the man in the corner said suddenly. 
"I like blood." 

" What a fine night it has turned ! " said the man in 
the grey frock coat, raising the sash and putting his head 
out of the window. . . . "Something rather uncanny, 
eh, about that man ? " he remarked under his breath, half 
to himself, half to the man in brown corduroys. 

"Take your head in," said the latter, almost affection- 
ately, "or you'll be catching cold, and you've a nasty 
scar on your neck that I could see as you leaned forward, 
and which you oughtn't to go getting the cold into." 

" Oh, that ! " said the other complacently, sitting down 
again, but averting his gaze carefully from the man in 
the corner, for whom he seemed to feel a repulsion as 
marked as was his preference for his cheerful vis-a-vis. 
"That ! That's actually the scar of the blow that killed 
me. A fearful gash I He was a powerful man that dealt 
it. He got me, of course, from behind. I never even 
saw him. I was drafted off here at once, his hand had 
been so sure." H.e felt nervously in his pockets. " I have 
a foulard somewhere, but I am apt to mislay it." 

"You should do like me, have a good strong handker- 
cher and knot it round your neck firm. I've got a mark 
of sorts on my neck too, but it isn't an open wound — 
never was," the bluff man sniggered. " It is sheer vanity 
with me, but I don't care to have it seen. It goes well 
all round, mine does — done by a rope, eh ! " 

He paused and nodded slyly. "For killing a toff. 



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HO TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Nice old gentleman he seemed, too, but I hadn't much 
time to look at him. Had to get to work " 

He was rudely interrupted by a screech from the baby 
farmer. 

"Lord!" she cried, "do I see another conveyance 
coming on this lonely road? I do 'ope so. I'm one for 
seeing plenty of people. I always like a crowd, and I 
must tell you, this sort of humdrum jogging along was 
beginning to get on my nerves." 

They all jerked themselves round, and peered through 
the glass panes behind them. The taciturn man alone 
reserved his attention. 

Sure enough, a dark object, plainly outlined in the 
strong moonlight which now lit up the heavens, where 
heavy masses of cloud had until now obscured its efful- 
gence, was plainly visible. It blotted the ribbon of white 
that lay in front of them. . . . Nearer and nearer it came. 
All heads were at the windows of the coach. . . . Now 
it was seen to be a high-hung dog-cart, of the most 
modern pattern, drawn by a smart little mettled pony, 
and containing two slight young girls. . . . The one 
that drove held the ribbons in hands that were covered 
with white dog-skin gloves, and which looked immense 
in the pallid moonshine. 

"What an excitement ! " said the stout woman. "We 
shall pass them. Some member of one of the country 
famflies abput here, I suppose." 

"I hope — for all things considering, I'm not a blood- 
thirsty man," the man in corduroys muttered anxiously 
under his breath, "that we're not a-going to give them 
a shock ! Bound to, when we meet them plumb like 
this ! 'Orses can't abide the sight of us, mostly, no 
more than they could those nasty motors when they first 
came in. And we're worse than motors — they seem to 
smell us out at once for what we are 1 " 



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THE COACH i 4I 

"If you do really think that pony is likely to swerve," 
said the man in the grey suit, anxiously, "would it be of 
any use our asking old Diggory to drive more slowly 
and humour them ? " 

"Couldn't go no slower than we are ! " replied the man 
in corduroys. " Besides, it's not the pace that kills I 
I'll bet you that pony's all of a sweat already I " 

The dog-cart approached. The faces of the two young 
women were discernible. They were white — blanched 
with fear, or it may have been the effect of the strong 
moonlight. There was no doubt that they were dis- 
turbed, and that the girl who was driving fully realized 
the necessity of controlling the horse, whose nostrils were 
quivering, and on whose sides foam was already appear- 
ing in white swathes. ... 

" It won't pass us I " said the man in the corner, speak- 
ing suddenly. He rubbed his hands slowly one over the 
other. " There will be blood I " 

" For goodness' sake stop gloating like that I " said 
the stout woman. "It turns my stomach to hear you. 
Wherever can you have come from, I wonder? 'Tisn't 
manners. ... I say, can't we hail them? " she inquired 
of the man in grey. "All give them one big shout?" 

"They wouldn't be able to hear us," he replied, shaking 
his head sadly. " You must not forget that we are ghosts. 
We are not really here." 

"Ay, and that's what the beasts know!" cried the 
man in corduroys. He jumped about. "That 'oss won't 
be able to stand it. The kid'll not be able to hold him 
in. • . . 

"They're on us ! " screamed the smart woman. "Oh, 
my God ! Do we have to sit still and see it ? " She 
covered her eyes with her hand. 

"Yes, Missus, I reckon you have, and what's more, run 
away after like any shoffer that's killed his man and left 



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142 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

him lying in the roadside. Old Diggory's got his 
orders." 

The snorting of the pony was now audible. The coach* 
ful of ghosts distinctly saw the lather of foam dropping 
from its jaws. They were able, some of them, to realize 
the agonized tension of one girl's hands, pulling for all 
she was worth, and the scared sideways twist of her 
forcedly inactive companion. Alone the face of the 
yellow carriage-lamp glared, immovable. . . . 

Then it flew down, and was extinguished. There was 
a crash, a convulsion — and the great road to the north 
lay clear again. 

The Coach of Death rolled on remorselessly past a 
black heap that filled the ditch on one side. It lay quite 
still, after that almost human leap and heave. . . . 

The smart woman fainted, or appeared to do so. The 
baby farmer sat silent. 

"It's iniquitous ! " exclaimed the man in grey, turning 
round from the window — his eyes wet, "to leave them 
behind like that without a word of inquiry, when it's our 
conveyance has done all the mischief ! " 

He groaned and fidgeted. . . . 

The man in corduroys tried to soothe him. "We ain't 
to blame, Sir, don't you think it! " he repeated. "As 
you said before to the lady, we aren't really here ! " 

"That is little consolation to a man of honour," the old 
man said sadly. " Still, as you say, we are but tools " 

He devoted himself to the smart woman, who revived 
a little under his civil ministrations. 

"After all," she said, "aren't we somehow or other all 
in the same boat ? I shouldn't be surprised if those two 
nice girls didn't join us at the next stage. If they do, 
we'll make them tell us how they felt, when they first 
saw the coachful of ghosts coming down on them. 
They're certainly dead, for they were both pitched into 



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THE COACH 143 

the ditch with the cart and horse on top of them. Did 
anybody see what became of the horse ? No. . . . Well, 
we must settle down to dulness again, I am afraid, or, 
suppose, to while away the time we all started to tell each 
other the story of how we came to be here? A lively 
tale might cheer us all up, after the accident." 

"Agreed, Madam, heartily for my part," said the man 
in grey, "though my own story is very humdrum, and 
not in the least amusing. You want, of course, an 
account of the particular accident that sent me here. 
Very well ! But, ladies first I Will not you begin, 
Madam?" 

She tossed her head, with an affected air. 

"My story, perhaps," she insinuated with modesty, 
"might not be very new to you. It was in all the papers 
so recently." 

"That will not affect me," he answered, "for if, as I 
presume, it was a murder case, I never read them." 

"I read yours then, Missus, I expect," said the man in 
corduroys. " I generally get the wife to read them out to 
* me — anything spicy." 

"And yet the people that did it are not hanged yet, if, 
indeed, they ever are, poor souls ! I am quite anxious," 
said the smart woman, "to see how it goes. If the pair 
are really sent here, I suppose I shall be running up 
against them some night or other, on one of these trans- 
+ ference parties. It will be very interesting. But " — she 
leaned across to the baby farmer — "could we not persuade 
you to give us some of your — nursery experiences, 
Madam?" 

"There's not much story about the drowning of a 
litter of squalling puppies or whining kittens," said that 
lady shortly, "we want something livelier — more per- 
sonal, if I may say so. From a remark that gentleman 
in the corner let drop a while ago, I fancy his reminis- 



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144 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

cences would be quite worth hearing, as good as a shilling 
shocker." 

"My story," replied the individual thus pointedly 
addressed, "is impossible, frankly impossible." 

"Indecent, do you mean ? " The smart woman's eyes 
shone. "Oh, let us have it. You can veil it, can't 
you ? " 

" Have you ever heard of mental degenerates ? " he 
asked her compassionately. "I was one. I was called 
mad — a simple way of expressing it. I was a chemist. 
I dissected neatly enough, too, like a regular butcher. 
They did quite right to exterminate me." 

His head dropped. He seemed disinclined to say more. 
Still the smart woman persisted. 

"But the details ?" 

"Are purely medical, Ma'am. Not without a physio- 
logical interest, I may say. Interesting to men of science, 
pathologically. The" — he named a daily paper much 
in vogue at that time, "made a good deal of the strong 
sense of artistry — of contrast — the morbid warp inherent 
in the executant " 

His head sank again on his chest. 

"I do believe," said the baby farmer, nudging the 
smart woman, "that we shall find he's the man who killed 
his sweetheart and then carefully tied her poor inside all 
into true lover's knots with sky-blue ribbon. Artist, 
indeed ! They're quite common colours — blue and 
red " 

" Disgusting ! " The delicate lady from Monte Carlo 
shuddered, and turning coldly away, joined in the peti- 
tion proffered by the other ghosts to the breezy man in 
corduroys, to relate his experiences. 

"Oh, I'll tell you how I came to join you and wel- 
come ! " he said, rolling his huge neck about in its setting 
of red cotton. "Well, to begin with, I was drunk. 



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THE COACH 145 

Equally, of course, I was hard up. My missus — she's 
married again, by the way, blast her ! — was always nag- 
ging me to do something for her and the kids. I did. 
Nation's taking care of them now, along of what I did. 
Work, she meant, but that was only by the way. I did 
choose to take on a job, though, on a rich man's estate, 
building some kind of Folly, lots of glass and that, work- 
ing away day and night by naphtha flares, you know. He 
was one of those men, you know the sort, that has more 
money than a man can properly spend, and feels quite 
sick about it, and says so, in interviews and so on, in the 
papers a working man reads. That's the mischief. He 
was always giving away chunks of money to charities 
and libraries and that sort of useless lumber, but none of 
it ever seemed to come the way of those that we^e in real 
need of it. They said the money had got on his nerves, 
and would not let him sleep o' nights, and that he was 
afraid by day and went about with a loaded stick and I 
don't know what all. And he was looked after by detec- 
tives, at one time, so the papers said — again the papers, 
putting things in people's heads, as it's their way. So 
one blessed evening I was very low — funds and all, and 
my missus and the kids hollering and complaining as 
they always do when luck's bad. Lord bless them, they 
never thought as they were 'citing their man to murder. 
Women never do think. And going out with their snivel- 
ling in my ears, I passed the station where he landed 
every evening after his day in town, and I happened to 
see him come out of the train and send away his motor 
that was a-waiting for him all regular, and start out to 
walk 'ome alone by a short cut across a little plantation 
there was, very thick and dark, just the place for a 
murder. Well — I told you I was half drunk — I raced 
home and got something to do it with — a meat chopper — 
to be particular " ^~ 



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146 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The old man opposite put his hand nervously to the 
back of his neck. 

" Ay, Mister, it takes you just there, does it ? You look 
a regular bundle of nerves, you do. Well, as I was say- 
ing, I went round by a short cut that I happened to know 
of, and got in front of him and hid in the hedge. Ten 
mortal minutes I waited for my man to come by. Lord, 
how my hand did tremble I I'd have knocked off for 
two pence. I was as nervous as a cat, but all the same, it 
didn't prevent me from striking out for wife and children 
with a will when my chance came. I caught him behind 
with my chopper, and he fell like a log. Never lifted a 
hand to defend himself — hadn't got any grit. Ladies, I 
don't suppose I hurt him much, for he never even cried 
out when I struck or groaned when it was done. Then I 
looked him over, turned out his pockets and collared his 
watch and season ticket and seals and money. Money — 
hah ! — I had been fairly done over that. Would you 
believe it of a rich fellow like him, he hadn't got more 
than the change of a sovereign on him." 

"Shame I " ejaculated the taciturn man in the corner. 

" I admit it was hard on you," the man in grey observed 
kindly. "Very hard, for I believe the retribution came 
all too quickly. You foolishly left your chopper about 
to identify you, and were apprehended at once by our 
excellent rural police. Yet the law is so dilatory that 
you lay in gaol a whole year before you were free to join 
your victim here ? " 

"Right you are, mate. Yes, I swung for it, sure 
enough. Short and sweet it was once I stood on the drop, 
but it still makes my poor old throat ache to think of it." 

He wriggled and twisted his neck in its ruddy cinc- 
ture. ... 

"Now, governor, I'm done, and if you've no objection 
we'd all like to hear how you came by that ugly gash of 



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THE COACH 147 

yours? It wasn't no rope did that. Common or garden 
murder, I'll be bound." 

"Certainly, my man, it was a murder — a murder most 
apropos. The circumstances were peculiar. I have often 
longed to get the ear of the jury who tried a man for 
relieving me of my light purse and intolerably heavy life, 
and tell them — the whole hard-working, conscientious 
twelve of them, trying their best to bring in an honest 
verdict and avenge my wrongs — my own proper feelings, 
surely no negligible factor in the case ! They could not 
guess, these ignorant living men, whose eyes had not yet 
been opened by death to a due sense of the proportions 
of things — that I bore the poor creature no malice, but 
instead was actually grateful for his skilful surgery that 
had severed the life-cord that bored me, so neatly and 
completely." 

"It isn't every one would take it like that ! " remarked 
the smart woman. "Yet that is, more or less, how I feel 
about these things myself. Only in my case it is impos- 
sible to speak of skilful surgery ! I was disgracefully cut 
up. I couldn't possibly have worn a low dress again ! " 

" Have you ever heard ? " said the" man in grey thought- 
fully, "of the Greek story of the Gold of Rhampsinitos, 
and the inviolable cellar he built to store it in ? Accord- 
ing to the modern system, my gold was hoarded in my 
brain, where fat assets and sordid securities bred and 
bred all day long. The laws that govern wealth are hard. 
You must give it, devise it, you must not allow it to be 
taken. But for my part I would have welcomed the two 
sons of the master builder who broke into the Greek 
King's Treasure House. In the strong-room of my brain 
it lodged. With one careless calculation, one stroke of 
a pen, I could make money breed money there to madden 
me. I was lonely, too. I had no wife to divide my 
responsibilities. She might even have enjoyed them. 
l 2 



— Dj^itiz 



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148 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

But I dared approach no woman in the way of love — I did 
not choose to be loved for my cheque-signing powers. I 
was not loved at all. I was hated. Unrighteous things 
were done in my name, by the greedy husbandmen of my 
load of money. Then I was told that I went in danger of 
my life, and I condescended to take care of that — for a 
time — only for a time ! 

"One dark winter evening — I forget what had hap- 
pened during the day, what fresh instance of turpitude 
or greed had come before me — I was so revolted that I 
kicked away all the puling safeguards by which my 
agents guarded their best asset of all, and gave the rein 
to my instinct. I disregarded precautions of every sort — 
with the exception of my faithful loaded stick, and the 
carrying of that had come to be a mere matter of habit 
with me — and I walked home from the station alone and 
unattended, up to my big house and good dinner which I 
hoped — nay, I almost knew — that I should not be alive 
to eat; And indeed, as luck would have it, on that night 
of all nights the trap was set for me. The appointed 
death^dealer was waiting — he took me on at once. I got 
my desire— kind, speedy, merciful, violent death. I never 
even saw the face of my deliverer." 

"By George!" softly swore the man in corduroys. 
"This beats all. Are you sure you aren't kidding us?" 

" No indeed, that is exactly how I felt about it, and if 
I had known of knowledge, as I knew of instinct, what 
was going to happen, I would have thought to realize 
some of my wealth before setting out to walk through that 
wood, and made it more worth the honest fellow's while. 
But as you are aware, a millionaire does not carry portable 
gold about with him, and my cheque-book which I had 
on me would, of course, be of no use to him. Alas, all 
the poor devil got for his pains was exactly nineteen shil- 
lings and eleven pence. I had changed a sovereign at the 



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THE COACH 149 

book-stall to buy a paper, and out of habit, had waited 
for the change." 

The man in corduroys was by this time in a consider- 
able state of excitement. He had rent the red handker- 
chief fiercely from his neck, and now made as if to tear 
it across his knee. . . . 

"Why, governor !" he exclaimed passionately, "do 
you mean to say it was through you that I got this 
here" — he put both hands behind his head and inter- 
locked them, " in return for giving you that there cut at 
the back of your neck ? Well, how things do come about, 
to be sure ! " 

"Gently, gently 1 my man," the elder soothed him. 
"Don't be so melodramatic about a very ordinary co- 
incidence. See, the ladies are quite upset. It doesn't do 
to allow Oneself to get excited here — it's not in the rules. 
If I had made the little discovery you have done, I don't 
think — no, I really don't think I would have made it 
public. This undue exhibition of emotion of yours 
strikes me as belonging to the vulgar world we have all 
left. But since you have allowed it to come out, and 
every one is now aware of the peculiar relation in which 
we stand to each other, you must let me tender you my 
best thanks, as to a most skilful and firm operator, and 
believe me to be truly grateful to you for your services 
in the past." 

"Quite the old school 1 " said the smart woman. 

" I must say, Sir, — I consider you the real gentleman," 
said the baby farmer. 

"lama gentleman." 

"And a fairly accommodating one! " said the rough 
man, wiping his brow where, however, no sweat was. 
"It isn't every man as would give thanks for being 
scragged ! " 

" Every man isn't a millionaire," said his victim calmly. 



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150 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The smart woman, leaning forward, tapped the old 
gentleman amiably with her jewelled pince-nez. 

"But we belong to the same world, I perceive," she 
said, "and I am quite able to understand your refined 
feeling. It is as I said in my own case. Indeed if those 
two good people, who shall be nameless, had only dealt 
with me a little more gently, I don't know that I should 
not forgive them absolutely. I shall at any rate be per- 
fectly civil when I do meet them — only perhaps a little 
distant. But that Monte Carlo existence I was leading 
when they interrupted it, was really becoming intoler- 
able ! No one who hasn't done it, thoroughly can realize 
what it is. Glare, noise, glitter, fever — that heartless, 
blue, laughing sea they talk of in the railway advertise- 
ments " 

The baby farmer, left out in this elegant discussion, 
obviously took no pleasure in it, but staring straight 
before her, muttered sulkily — 

"Cote d'Azur and Pentonville 1 There's some little 
difference, isn't there, between one life and the other? 
Yet I enjoyed my life, I did, and as for gratitude, I can't 
say as I see all those blessed infants a-coming up to me, 
and slobbering me for what I did for 'em. I may meet 
them, but they'll not notice me. It isn't in human nature. 
Their mothers' thanks was all I got, and they thanked 
me beforehand in hard cash for what I was a-going to do. 
Lord, what's a ricketty baby more or less ? I say, we're 
slowing up ! Going to stop perhaps, and a good thing 
too I " 

"Yes," said the man in the grey frock coat, still 
enouncing his curt sentences to the unheeding listeners, 
" I am able to cordially thank the man who rid me with 
one clean scientific blow of my wretched life and all its 
tedious accessories. A skilled workman is worthy of 
his hire " 



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THE COACH 151 

"Mercy! M muttered the baby farmer. "Is he never 
going to stop ? If it was for nothing else, he ought to 
have got scragged for being a bore ! " 

But being fully wound up, though in the excitement 
of arriving at the depdt no one was attending, the man in 
grey continued, "Suicide I had thought of, but abhorred, 
though on my soul I had nearly come to that, and then 
it was merely a question of courage — you spoke truly, 
Sir. Mine was a thin, pusillanimous nature, as you 
said. You came by, a kind Samaritan, and sacrificed 
your own good life freely to rid me of my wretched one. 
I think I told you that when you were being tried, I 
followed urgently all the details of the trial, and made 
interest with the authorities here to allow me to appear 
to the judge in his sleep, say, and instil into his mind 
some inkling of the true state of my feelings towards you. 
I do not know, however, if you would have thanked me, 
for life may have been no sweeter to you than it was to 
me — you spoke of an uncongenial helpmate, I think? 
Still one never knows. I might have been Ihe means of 
procuring you some good years yet, in the full exercise 
of your undeniable vigour and remarkable decision of 
character. But it was apparently not to be. You fol- 
lowed me here, after a long interval of waiting, and now 
we have met, face to face. The introduction on that 
dark night was worth nothing. I like your face. We 
shall probably never meet again— their ways are dark 
and devious here, so I am the more glad of this oppor- 
tunity of opening my mind to you on a delicate subject, 
perhaps, but one that has always been very near my 
heart. By the way "—he lifted his stick with its shining 
ivory crown into view. "Did you notice this? You 
read the papers, you said, and they told you it was 
heavily weighted and that I carried it always as a pre- 
caution. Well, on that eventful night for both of us— 



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152 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

perhaps you were too hurried to notice? — but I never 
used it. Accept it now, will you not, as a memento ? . . • 
I think, from sundry truly unearthly bumpings, that we 
seem to have come at last to our journey's end. ... I 
am right, the coachman has got down from his perch 
and taken his head under his arm. . . . We part. Mes- 

dames, I salute you. Again, Sir " He addressed 

himself more particularly to the shamefaced man in 
corduroys — "Farewell. Very pleased to have met you ! " 

One by one, the passengers faded away into the dis- 
tance. The polite old man paused in the semblance of an 
inn yard where the coach had drawn up. A pale proud 
woman's face, shining up by the step, had touched him. 
She was an intending passenger, and she was alone. 
She wore white dog-skin gloves, but no hat. Unusual, 
he fancied, in a woman of her class. On looking closer, 
he saw that she had a hat, but that it hung disregarded 
over her shoulder by an elastic, and was much battered 
and destroyed. He decided to speak to her. 

"You are the lady we killed, I think ? " he asked gently. 

She acknowledged with a bow that it was so. 

"We could none of us do anything," he apologized, 
"or I hope you will believe " 

"Certainly, Sir, it was no fault of yours, or indeed of 
the company's, I am sure. The accident was inevit- 
able I " so she assured him, smiling faintly. He looked 
at her kindly. There was blood on the hair, he was able 
to convince himself. . . . "ButRory — our pony — never 
can pass things, at the best of times, and the look of your 
conveyance was certainly rather unusual. And at that 
time of night we rarely meet anything at all on the Great 
North Road. We choose that time on purpose, my sister 
and I — we had been staying away for a week with friends, 
and we were going home. When we saw you coming, 
Lucy said, half in jest — she is older than I — ' Suppose 



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THE COACH iS3 

that thing in front were the Coach of Death the foolish 
country people talk about ? They say it travels this way 
once a year, with its cargo of souls, on St. John's Eve/ 
I bade her not be superstitious, but I confess I thought 
the vehicle looked odd myself, and I did wonder how 
Rory would stand it. When it came nearer I saw dis- 
tinctly that the coachman was headless, and I laughingly 
told my sister so. She bade me not disturb her, for 
death coach or live coach, she meant to do her best to get 
Rory past it. She failed " 

The man in grey looked nervously around. He was 
alone with the young lady in the dull inn yard. The 
headless coachman was preparing to ascend to the box 
seat again. . . . 

"Where is your sister now?" he inquired. 

" She lies at the bottom of the ditch. Rory has galloped 
home. She fell on her head, but she is alive still. When 
they find her in the morning, she will be dead, I know 
that. For now I know all things. I am at peace. . . 
you need have no care for me. . . ." 

"Let me at least put you into the coach," he begged. 
" And you will prefer the corner seat ? " r . . 

She took it'; he went on — 

"It looks, however, as if you were going to have all 
the accommodation to yourself, for this stage at all 
events." 

He raised his hat; she bowed. 

" I am grieved that I cannot have the pleasure — that I 
cannot offer to accompany you, but I have my marching 
orders. . . ." 

He raised his hat again. . . . The coach moved on out 
of the yard. Soon it was lost in the mists. . . . The 
summer dawn was just breaking. 



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THE BLUE BONNET 



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THE BLUE BONNET 

"... a little spark in a blue bonnet, who fought like the devil at 
Preston."— Boswell. 

The tourists peered past the grey stone pillars of the 
gateway into the courtyard, paved with round cobbles, 
grass-grown in between. The low sculptured doorway 
gave admittance to the old manor house that had so 
fascinated the lady of the party from the first moment 
she had cast eyes on it. 

" Oh, this is a bit of the real thing ! " she had exclaimed 
fervently, when, five miles out of Richmond, the road 
had ceased to follow the course of the Swale, mantled 
all the way with heavy oak and hazel copses. They 
seemed to hang like hairy beards from the beetle-browed 
face of the cliffs that shelter the east bank of the river. 
"The very real thing!" she had continued, as the 
wagonette turned out into the open moorland, and their 
town-bleached cheeks were bathed at once in the pure 
sullen airs that roamed over it, softened and suffused 
with the tears of an April storm gone by. "This is the 
real Yorkshire moor I've read of, bare and empty, with 
not a single dwelling to be seen. Yes, there's one ! " 

For as their conveyance dived down into the scarp of a 
hill, she sighted beyond the now familiar river which 
wound again into view, directly crossing their path, and 
the low bridge of quite modern construction which 
Spanned it, the square mass of a house commanding the 
river bank. It seemed to stand, bull-dog like, on the 
slight acclivity, posing as guardian of the ford at that 
place, which was certainly all that had served for cross- 

*57 



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158 TALES OF THE" UNEASY 

ing a hundred years ago. So her instructive companion 
remarked to the eager lady. She grew more and more 
enthusiastic. 

"John, I can't possibly pass it 1 I couldn't reconcile 
it with my historical conscience to go by without an 
attempt to see it. It's like a grey-haired woman stand- 
ing stranded on the edge of the world, an old Ariadne 
of a house, waiting for ever by the side of the flood. 
. . . Ask the driver what they call it ? " 

"Wallburn Old Hall," said the stolid Yorkshireman, 
flicking a fly off his horse's ear. 

Three blind hopeless windows which had been closed 
up for the tax looked over the old garden garth. The 
eyes of the persons looking thence could have swept the 
stream and the narrow neck which formed the ford. The 
stone flagged courtyard of the house was enclosed by 
buildings on all sides 6ut one. On the west, looking 
towards the river, was a ruined battlement on which a 
man might still walk and survey the country round for 
miles. But it was now insecure, the inner rubble 
exposed. Clumps of wild mustard and garlic sprang 
from every cranny and crevice and made a yellow blaze 
that lit up the grey substance of the pile. The lady 
unable to contain herself longer, requested the driver to 
pull up and let them have a look. Her companion took 
out a guide-book and read aloud, as they sat in the break 
in the streaming sunshine. 

" Wallburn Old Hall . . . fortified manor house . . . 
dismantled. . . ." 

"I should think it was!" 

u Et pour cause. The old Cause of all! Listen! 
Family of Daunet. There's the shield on the door, 
evidently — see all that ripoussi work?-— only we can't 
read it from here." 



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THE BLUE BONNET 159 

"The book says : ' The ancient family of Daunet, who 
beareth sable gultie, argent and a canton ermine. . . .' 
Yes, Guy Daunet's tomb is in the church at Redmire 
— remember it? — His feet are cased in brass-toed 
sollerets. Above his lady's head are three shields of 
arms. She appears to have been a Conyers. Well, they 
seem to be pretty well extinct now. The last Daunet 
was out and killed in the fifteen. There were Daunets 
in the Great Rebellion, Daunets in the Gunpowder Plot 
— in the Rising in the North " 

" Poor romantic dears ! " 

"Yes, that's the plague of lost causes. They swayed 
the emotions so forcibly and through the emotions the 
very lives of the old families — those that had any good 
in them. One imagines them, up to the very latest 
day, having an indistinct glimmering of their own 
original raison d'etre, that is, lands given in exchange 
for service. . . . Their modern representatives have lost 
even the glimmering. Well, oughtn't we to be driving 
on?" 

"Oh, no. After what you've been making out, I must 
have a try to see over it. I want to make out that blurred 
shield over the door. Gules argent and canton ermine, 
was it ? They can but refuse us." 

The young couple alighted, under mute protest from 
the driver, and entered the courtyard, the lady bold, the 
man nervous, deprecating. They received forthwith a 
Teniers-like vision of an interior. Farm-hands were 
sitting round a wooden table, placed in the oak-panelled 
greasy blackness of a low raftered hall. All looked up, 
and ceased pulling at their mugs. A frowsy young girl 
of eighteen, wiping her mouth, came forward. 

"Could we see over?" The glint of a silver coin in 
the lady's hand pleasingly accentuated her request. 



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160 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

A voice came from the interior as the girl stood 
hesitating and shy. 

"Mind, hinny, thou'st not take the lady anywhere it 
isn't safe. Keep out of the room the captain's leg came 
through. And mind, the stairway beyont isn't much to 
crack on." 

The girl thus admonished, turned and led the en- 
thusiastic pair in and up the rich darkness of the stair. 

" That's the best part of it her mother told her to leave 
out! " whispered the lady. "That about the captain's 
leg. It sounds most exciting. Ask her — or I will." 

The girl, questioned, replied over her shoulder. 

"It's a tale, ma'am. A long while back it were — ages 
and ages. They do say a man's leg came through the 
floor, and he's always called the capting. The boards 
is rotten just there, and was then. That whole end o' 
the house is fair gone to powder. My grandfeyther used 
for to say that a man's leg made it coming through. But 
it was long before his time, and he were a very old man. 
The ceilings of that part of the house is that powdery, 
would you believe it, that we can always scrape the 
plaster and get a bit for baby." 

" How funny and utilitarian ! And is it haunted ? " 

"Grandfeyther always said 'twas." 

"Who by?" 

" They do say a poor man went clean daft there — came 
home and found every one lying dead about the place." 

" But what had they died of ? Plague ? " 

"The smit? Naw. Grandfeyther alius said 'twor a 
tragedy, same as they has in the papers now-a-days." 

" Where is your grandfather now ? " 

She jerked her finger over towards the north. 

" Churchyard. But he knew all about this place. His 
feyther before him was ostler about the inn at Redmire 



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THE BLUE BONNET 161 

— you'll pass it on your way to Bolton. He always said 
there was a hiding hole here, and mor'n that, a secret 
way, but teacher says that's all nonsense and we mustn't 
waste our time looking for it, besides it isn't safe. We 
shut oop this part, and just pack into the other, where it's 
still pretty good, and at Michaelmas we've all got to go 
out and Lord Scrope is going to pull the old place down." 

"Shame!" 

"Oh, I dunno. It's fair rotten." 

"Are you sure you can't take us into the rotten part 
— just for once before it all goes ? " 

"That I cannot. The worst room is the one the man's 
leg came through — they call it the Lady Christina's 
room. And it's there Grandfeyther says the priest's hole 
was." 

"It was generally out of the principal room in the 
house," said the man. "They wanted him under their 
own hand and to be able to feed him at night. Come 
along, Mary, you really can't see it." 

"I suppose not." She sighed. "But I do somehow 
seem to see Christina — the Lady Christina. I suppose 
her spirit is about ? Why * Lady ' ? The Daunets had 
no title." 

"These people always dignify ghosts and raise them 
to the peerage. Let's see if we can't make up a story 
for her. Christina Daunet and her lover — was he the 
man who went mad or the priest she hid ? " 

They were descending the stairs. Their cicerone broke 
in suddenly. 

"Nay, that weren't the way. The real heir was troth- 
plight to the Lady Christina, and he was drowned one 
day here in the ford, here under her very eyes." 

"Another touch ! " said her companion eagerly. "So 
legend grows. Let us go and sit out on the hill, here, 

M 



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162 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and look towards the ford, and I'll try to reconstruct 
her story for you. Pm not a novelist for nothing. This 
is how the man went mad when he came home." 
• •••••• 

There was no priest. The lover was that "little spark 
in a blue bonnet that fought at Preston " Boswell speaks 
of. Pve always wanted to connect him up with a story. 
Miss Christina Daunet — not Lady — was tall and pale, 
and a fine girl, so long as she had enough to eat, and 
nothing to brood on. But her adolescence and greatest 
need of nourishment happened to coincide with Jacobite 
times of stress, when loyal subjects starved in order that 
the Stuarts might come by their own. The females of 
her family were used — even hardened to the more 
domestic consequences of the males' unfaltering loyalty. 
When the fuss was about priests, Christina's own grand- 
mother had successfully concealed one in the hiding- 
place in her room — that very room that we were not per- 
mitted to investigate, looking towards the ford and the 
road to Richmond. To-day her own mother lay there, 
eighty, bedridden, daft and doited. 

These two women were the widow and daughter of 
the last Daunet of the direct line. Since the great Guy 
of the canton ermine, the race had continually dwindled. 
So many of them had been strangled, so many hanged 
and drawn and quartered, a half-dozen desiccated heads 
belonging to the strain had rotted on Temple Bar. Cold 
steel and a touch of poison had been responsible for 
some others, and thus the foolish, forlorn race had been 
cleared off to make room for persons of finer judgment 
and less realistic ideals. Acts of attainder, recusant 
fines, had impoverished their estates, and mulcted them 
of their goods, till of all the broad lands, castles and 
noble manor houses that had bred and sheltered and 



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THE BLUE BONNET 163 

maintained Daunets for the King's service, only the 
austere, embattled farm-house on the Richmondshire 
moors remained, and therein the two women that alone 
bore the fine fighting name slowly pined and withered 
away. 

They had not enough to eat. Yet their appetites were 
no larger than feminine appetites are reputed to be. Sir 
Christopher Daunet, Christina's father, was killed at 
Sheriffmuir when his little daughter was a year old, and 
her mother, grown doited with the shock, lived on to 
give very little trouble, and represent no great charge 
on the family finances. She lay always in her big room 
in the south-west wing. Her heavy four-post bed, too 
mighty and perhaps too rotten to be moved, remained 
firm in its old place on the safer part of the flooring; 
the tester was hung by heavy rings to the ceiling. Her 
daughter, ministering to her slight wants, had learned 
to walk warily round the bed. 

Christina Daunet was loyal — as women are loyal. 
She realized very fairly that this task of the reinstate- 
ment of the Stuart dynasty on the throne of England 
had been set by Providence on her and hers, incidentally 
carrying with it the doom of extermination set on the 
race. Their blind inherent loyalty clustered as it must, 
round the losing side which sucked in, naturally, these 
people who always went where their advantage was not 
— and the losing side had drawn in her father, her uncle, 
even the man she loved. 

She loved her cousin, Charles Daunet of Scanwood. 
Scanwood House lay three miles hence on the Richmond 
Road. Charles was the only son of her father's only 
sister. Christina and this young man were early troth- 
plighted — they were about to wed — but the Stuarts came 
first. It was the Cause that intervened and forbade the 

M2 



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i6 4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

innocent banns. Charles Daunet allowed the just im- 
pediment and went out as a matter of course. He was 
more eager for the day of the stranger's crowning than 
for the morn that should usher in his wedding with 
Christina whom he knew and loved. He had left her 
too easily. Folk in the neighbourhood said he was 
slack. Christina herself admitted that Charles was more 
of a fighter than a lover. But the Stuarts called ! What 
was a Daunet to do ? 

She cried sometimes and mourned over her baulked 
betrothal with her only confidant, a certain Luke 
Daunet. Her father had had a son, but he was not her 
mother's child. Luke lived with them — his mother had 
been innkeeper's daughter over at Redmire, a good girl 
enough till Sir Christopher Daunet came her way. He 
lived so near, at Wallburn, and he was not the man to 
leave so fair a flower ungathered. 

Madam Daunet was not a hard woman. She under- 
took the child's maintenance when its mother died and 
Sir Christopher fell at Sheriffmuir. Luke grew up. 
He was not "all there," but he was an honest, kindly, 
gentle fellow, and for the two lonely women he did a 
man's work about the place. There was not much to do. 
There was not a beast left in the stable, except a wall- 
eyed, knock-kneed pony that Luke rode into Redmire or 
Marske now and then to buy necessaries. They could 
afford v no other servant. The white-handed proud 
Christina tended her mother, cooked, and did the inside 
work of theliouse. It was all one. When the Prince 
should come into his own, Christina would do so like- 
wise. 

Of that she had doubts sometimes, especially when 
the wind whistled over the moor, and the stream ran 
heavy and turbid below the garden, so that the ford was 



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THE BLUE BONNET 165 

ill to cross. The Prince's final triumphing then seemed 
surer than her own. Charles had been away now a long 
while. He had not been assiduous about her for many 
months before his departure to join the Prince. He had 
sent her no message first or last. She had even heard 
of another lady. ... 

For rumours flew. The news of the brief Stuart 
apotheosis at Edinburgh, tidings of the Prince's meteoric 
Court at Holyrood, had filtered down to Redmire, and 
the bar of the inn there. Preston fight, too, was men- 
tioned. She thought, but was not sure, that Charles had 
been noticed there. Now the Prince was marching 
south . . . had marched. . . . 

On that day of December, mild and calm and presage- 
less as it seemed, Christina was ill at ease, peevish, 
apprehensive. She went about the houseplace and 
courtyard with her ears pricked to the free roving wind 
that might have brushed her Charles's bonnet in pass- 
ing, as he marched south with his troops? Or, weary of 
this fairy listening, she would droop her eyes, till they 
rested dreaming on the waterway below the dip of the 
hill where Wallburn Hall stood. Then she would raise 
them slowly to look a little higher on the level where the 
turrets of Scanwood were just visible nestling in their 
encompassing woods. Scanwood was a fine place, and 
would it be hers some day ? 

Puzzled, like a fox that is hunted, she snuffed the air 
and could not tell which way danger, or perhaps bliss, 
might come. Had the Prince's army passed them on 
its way south? For indeed the last news Luke had 
brought had been that the Stuart heir was marching 
on his own capital, with his victorious rabble of High- 
landers. King George was quaking. Would not 
Charles, if this were so, have to pass by Scanwood to 



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166 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

see to his domestic concerns ? Her mother babbled for 
ever of drums; the old woman would have it that she 
heard them. ... 

"They've gone by, my dear, they've gone by. Oh, 
the bonny lads ! . . . The Prince has gone into Eng- 
land, never to leave it again, dearie. Listen to the old 
doited woman, for she speaks truth. Rub-a-dub ! . . . 
Rub-a-dub! . . ." 

" Whisht, whisht, mother ! " Christina now and again 
murmured softly but not imperatively, as she stood by 
the window and herself with her slight long fingers 
performed the manoeuvre known as drumming on the 
pane. Yes, her heart lifted ; he had passed, at a point 
perhaps miles away, too far for him to get leave to call 
in and see his sweetheart. She must have patience. 
One day soon she would be looking out of this very 
window and she would see Charles on his fine horse 
crossing the ford at the old place, coming to her, with a 
light heart, and all his troubles and hers behind him, 
cast aside, healed, over and done with. She could 
discern the very spot now where the bottom was nearest 
and the water shallowest, even exposed at times in 
drought. The waters flowed glumly over it now, there 
had been much rain to swell them. Sometimes, to the 
excited girl, who stood there, her nerves wrought by 
the faint vfoal rub-a-dubbing that came from the bed 
behind her, it seemed that the water gathered itself up 
into shapes — shapes of horses and men. The little 
waves seemed to rise obediently under the harsh wind, 
and form themselves into the semblance of uncanny 
humanity. They massed themselves and menaced, yes, 
she came to fancy that one figure rose again and again 
from the sullen flow to shake a quivering fist at her. 
She stared the silly vision down. Soon the water ran 



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THE BLUE BONNET 167 

by as usual, huddling, lumping itself into small ridges 
under the wind, but nothing so tall as a man. 

She turned to receive and divert the mother's peevish 
voice. The old woman had ceased to imitate the drums ; 
she was now convinced in her senile way they had 
passed. She talked strange nonsense, used strange 
names. "Bound for the South, they are. . . . The 
Bridge. . . . Swarkstone ! Swarkstone." 

"Where's that, mother?" 

"Bad luck! Bad luck! The Bridge. ... No 
further. . . . Swarkstone. No further. Back ! Back ! 
I'm cold, Christina. I'm cold. . . ." 

"The day's changing and you feel it," said Christina 
sadly, altering the position of the coverings. It was 
all she could do. 

"Nay, 'tis the smit of death I've got, Christina! I 
know it." 

"Oh, mother, not now, just when we are going to 
be so happy." But her heart did not back her words. 
"Look here, I'll have Luke go to Redmire at once and 
get you some of Betty Candlish's cordial. She promised 
me some for you the moment I wanted it, and you seemed 
low as you do to-day. We won't let you die just yet." 

" Ay, but can you keep me ? " said the voice from the 
bed gently. "It's that I've got and no mistake. I've 
felt it all day. . . . Come back and kiss me, Christina. 
You're a good girl — a very good girl. . . . The Bridge 
at Swarkstone — I saw him there — the Prince. . . . 
Remember that, Christina." 

"Yes, mother, I will, though I never heard of such 
a place in my life ! " cajoled the girl as she went down- 
stairs to seek the half-witted Luke and confide her errand 
to him. 

He sat, as usual, on the oak settle, swallowed up in 



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168 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the glooms of the chimney corner. She roused him up, 
and told him what she wanted. She helped him to 
saddle the pony and watched him potter slowly up the 
hill towards Bolton. Then she re-entered the house and 
cut up, on the corner of the big seamed oaken table, 
some vegetables which she had fetched from an outhouse. 
Into a pot on the fire she threw the sliced turnips and 
carrots. There was not much fire to hang over, but 
her forehead got hot, her cheeks flushed, and her hair 
escaped a little from its binding. 

Presently, having put the mess to one side on the hob, 
she walked slowly out into the courtyard to get air, of 
which she suddenly felt a violent need. She languidly 
ascended the few broken steps that led up to the old 
battlement. At that time one could still walk along it 
without having one's attention too much distracted by 
the necessity of picking one's way among the rubble. 
She strolled backwards and forwards, enjoying the fresh 
moorland air that caressed her reddened cheeks and blew 
her pale yellow hair away in an easterly direction. 

Holding her hand to her forehead instinctively to 
restrain it, though there was no one to be seen for miles, 
she scanned the country to the south. Her blue eyes 
roved over the low rolling hills that let her see a very 
long way. But not as far as that bridge at Swarkstone, 
six miles south of Derby, where the lines of her fate had 
been converging for several days past, and were now 
radiating away from thence in ragged streaks and strands 
of fugitive soldiers and brutal complacent pursuers. 

She was overcome with a sudden trepidation, a rush 
of feeling that somehow impelled her to get back to the 
room where her mother lay, and see for herself how 
the helpless woman was getting on. But she sat down 
on the parapet, which at the point where she was still 



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THE BLUE BONNET 169 

stood firm at the side of the battlement next the road. 
Overcome by a sudden faintness, she hid her face in 
her hands. She had eaten very little to-day. Her back 
was to the road, and her eyes, should she uncover them, 
would have rested on the empty grass-grown courtyard. 

It was not empty. A noise like a dead leaf twisting 
startled her. Luke come back on foot, without the 
pony ! She had pressed her knuckles into her eyes until 
her eyes had grown hazy and suffused, and it was a 
second or two before she saw there was actually a man in 
the courtyard below her. A man, not Luke. . . . 

His bonnet, faded by sun and wind and rain, had once 
been blue. She heard his breath that came quickly, 
and, very drily, scenting a beggar and a demand for 
alms, she asked him his business. 

He raised his drooping head. 

"Charles!" 

"Christina, quick! Who else is here? Can you 
harbour me ? " 

"What? What?" . 

"I come from Derby — the rout at Derby. We got six 
miles beyond and turned back. ... I am pursued. 
Quick, can you hide me, will you ? They will search 
my house at Scanwood, they are there now. . . ." 

Christina was not looking at him. She had half turned 
when he spoke of Scanwood, and her eyes pried into the 
bosky mazes lying between. . . . The fugitive thought 
that the brusque movement had its occasion in a natural 
change in her sentiments towards himself. He deserved 
no better, he had practically deserted her, he had never 
written — a woman scorned ! . . . Yet in his urgent 
necessity he must needs appeal to her again. . . . 

"Christina, an answer, I beg of you! Shall I go 
further for a shelter ? " 



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170 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"Take off that cap — reach it up to me here. Now go 
in to the chimney corner — you know it — sit down — at 
ease. Not another word." 

While speaking she had taken the blue cap and flung 
it down into the chapel garth on the other side of the 
wall. The cluster of "ramps " and fronds of wild garlic 
parted and opened to receive it and came together again. 
Meantime such was the power of insistence in her voice 
that the fugitive obeyed her as he would obey the military 
word of command. Heavily walking over the stones of 
the courtyard, he took his place on the settle in the 
chimney nook and crossed his legs negligently. He 
could still see Christina standing on the battlement look- 
ing down towards the ford. She stood first on one leg 
and then on the other ; she agitated her body strangely, 
she made signs. Then faint sounds, voices, the clink 
of bridles, came to his ears from the direction in which 
she looked. His pursuers most likely, for the noise 
came from Scanwood. He stretched his legs, stiff from 
two nights' exposure, further out in an attitude of ease 
as she had bidden him. He did not know what 
Christina meant to do. She was revengeful — then she 
would give him up? She meant perhaps to save him? 
Well, his life belonged to her. He waited. 

Five minutes ago Christina had seen his enemies 
taking the ford, a well-found troop of horse, and a 
stoutish personable man riding at their head. Charles 
Daunet, from the ingle nook, could not see them but 
he could see his Christina make a trumpet of her white 
hands and hear her bawl — yes, bawl — to them over the 
battlement — 

"Good gentlemen, hear me. Will you please to take 
some refreshment ? I cannot allow you to go by me, for 
it is lonely here at Wallburn Hall." 



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THE BLUE BONNET 171 

"Is that what you call it?" said a clear voice. 
"Wheel, men." 

Charles Daunet saw the speaker ride into the little 
courtyard at the Head of his troop, and dismount. He 
was a fine florid man of forty or so. He wore a high 
fixed cap with upon it the White Horse of Hanover; 
his gaiters were white and at his saddle he carried a 
dead turkey. Christina had descended from the battle- 
ment, and had gone to the horse's head. The man 
spoke breezily. 

"Captain Butler at your service, Mistress. We will 
eat a crust with you, the more go because we come to 
search you in the King's name." 

" Do you say so ? " Christina replied, setting the tone 
of the interview in a way that made Charles Daunet 
shiver. "Come you then in, in the King's name. 
George or James, 'tis all the same to me, a woman. It's 
long enough since a man came this way. I was wearying 
for the sight of one." 

The Captain laughed heartily. 

"Business, first, Miss, if you please. We have a 
warrant to take a certain Colonel Charles Daunet of 
Scanwood, who fought for the Pretender at Preston and 
gave us honest ones a dance of it." 

Christina looked faintly bored. 

" My cousin of Scanwood ! Is he not at home ? " 

"We have spent two hours ferreting for him there, 
and the housekeeper bade us come here. She said he 
was a good friend of yours." 

"She is chary of her information," said the girl com- 
posedly. "I was more than friend, I was once sweet- 
hearts with him, for my sins. But I have no care for 
the fellow now." She tossed her head. "Come in, come 
in, you and your men, as many as the roof will shelter. 



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172 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The wine cask is low, but we will do what we can. I 
am alone here — nearly." 

" My men — some of them — must search the house." 

" Ay, let them search closely 1 I was always one 
for formality. But see they take heed of the flooring 
of the upper rooms, which is indifferent and might let 
one of them through, especially if he be a fine man like 
yourself, Captain 1 " She giggled. "Shall I go along 
with them, and indicate the places where the maggots 
cling and the mouse gnaws, and all is gone to fine 
powder ? " 

"No, they must shift as best they can, and you shall 
stay here and talk with me. Our man should be here, 
without your knowledge, perhaps, since you say you 
and he have fallen out ? " 

"We fell out," said Christina carelessly, "when he 
chose to leave me to go and fight for a man I had never 
seen and didn't care for. He should have stayed here 
and taken care of his own." 

"I am with you, Mistress. Little as he is, though, he 
fought us like the devil at Preston. His blue bonnet 
was everywhere, and he fairly swinged our poor fellows 1 
The Duke is wild to have him strung up. Well, men, 
off with you 1 Thoroughly, mind. Every corner ! Is 
there a cursed hiding hole here ? " 

"Yes, in my mother's room," said the hostess 
languidly. "She lies there bedridden. Speak her fair 
and gently, and she will instruct you to find the way in. 
On the left-hand side of the fireplace — a bolt shaped like 
a beetle. Only it's iron, and if Charles is there — so 
much the worse for him." 

"You've got a spirit — nasty at that. Well, let's in. 
'Tis hot, and your liquor comes not amiss." 

Christina led the way under the low-browed doorway 



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THE BLUE BONNET 173 

to the kitchen, where Charles Daunet was sitting. She 
made straight for the corner where he was, and lifting 
up a wooden flap of the settle, rummaged for a bottle 
of spirits. Aloud she said — 

"Get thy great foot out of the way, Luke, wilt 'a ! " 

"Ay, who's that?" asked Captain Butler, apprehend- 
ing the sullen inmate of the chimney corner for the first 
time. 

"That! That's a poor foolish cousin of mine," she 
replied, rising from her knees with the bottle, a little 
flushed with stooping. . . . 

"You seem full of cousins " 

"Yes, but this one's on the wrong side of the blanket. 
He's not over quick, but he'll answer a civil question, 
no doubt. Now then ! " She took Charles Daunet 
roughly by the wounded shoulder, and he winced. 
"Look up, speak to the captain, can't you ? " 

"What's your name?" asked that personage humor- 
ously, entering into the spirit of the thing, but he got no 
answer. Christina shrugged her shoulders. 

"Truth, he's got no name, by the rights of it. Or 
if he has, it's the same as mine. Luke Daunet, at your 
service. Drat you, Luke, why don't you stand up and 
speak for yourself ? " 

Still the man on the settle did not move. 

"He's taken that way sometimes, Captain. A fit of 
the sullens. As obstinate as a mule, and you can't get 
a word out of him ; and another day he'll rattle away fit 
to deave you. Poor sort of company for a girl like me ! 
We just have to give him house room and a bite and a 
sup now and then for kinship's sake." 

She poured out a glass of mead and the captain took 
up the glass and raised it to his lips. 

"A kiss before I drink!" 



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174 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He put his hand on her shrinking shoulder. The 
kiss lit on her ear. The man in the corner looked up 
sharply. 

"Be quiet, Luke. Don't you see I never gave it?" 
she said, as if to a froward jealous baby. 

" It isn't to his taste, eh ? " said Butler. " Ha ! Ha ! " 

"Never you mind his tantrums, Captain. We never 
take any notice, mother and I." She filled his glass 
again. He sat down near the end of the table. She 
made shift to sweep the fragments of vegetables away 
with the carroty knife, but the captain raised his hand. 

"Let be ! " he said. . . . "Come and sit here, if this 
surly fellow will permit it. I shall like to watch his 
face." He put his burly arm out, and, not before she 
knew what she was doing, proud Christina Daunet was 
sitting on a trooper's knee and playing with his beard. 

There was a sound of feet and much stamping over- 
head. Presently, with a sharp ugly crash of splintering 
timber, the booted leg of one of Butler's men came 
through the ceiling and dangled helplessly. Christina 
jumped off the captain's knee and burst out laughing. 

"There ! I told you 'twould happen." 

"Bravo, Tim Jobling ! I'd know his leg in a 
hundred. Gad, I can hear him squealing like a pig up 
there ! " 

" 'Tis in my mother's room ! " exclaimed Christina 
suddenly. " 'Twill frighten her to death." 

"You shan't go till they come down. They'll be here 
directly. Look you, it's all right now. Tim Jobling 
has gotten back his leg. They have him by the 
shoulders, and hoist him up so. He's still swearing, 
though I can't hear. You shall hear me roast him." 

Christina did not sit on his knee again, but leaped 
away with a coquettish grimace as the members of the 



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THE BLUE BONNET 175 

search party came downstairs. Sheepishly came Tim 
Jobling at the tail of the group, minded to avoid Butler's 
merriment. 

"Found naught, Cap'n, except one doited old woman 
in bed." 

" My mother ! " interposed Christina proudly. 

"Ay, Walters, keep a civil tongue in your head, it 
can do you no harm. Did you put your blade thro* 
the bed?" 

"We did, ay, and the old body sat up, and talked 
gibberish. She frightened poor Tim so that he stepped 
back sharp and through the flooring." 

"His leg came out just there," said Butler, pointing 
to the comminuted fracture of laths and planks that 
sagged down from the ceiling. "Well, Tim, you're no 
worse and you've given me and my young lady here 
very good amusement. Your leg wagged like a mouse's 
tail in the trap. My word ! . . . Well, well, there's 
meetings and there's partings, Mistress. . . . We'll 
have to be jogging away. Our man's still to seek. 
What's this place Redmire?" He spoke to Christina, 
taking her by the chin. 

" It's a lost sort of place, three miles away from here. 
Marske's a deal more likely. Yet why should I be help- 
ing you to catch the poor escaped fellow ? You'll hang 
him, I'll warrant, and though he's despised me, I don't 
wish him that much harm. I was never fond of telling 
the hunt which way the fox had gone." 

"Do you say so?" He looked judicial, and stroked 
his beard. After a pause — "Still, I'll just have the 
correct name of that last place you mentioned. . . . 
You've no call to be careful for Charles Scan wood, he's 
given you the go-by, you say. A man merits a rope for 
neglecting a pretty wench, over and above being 



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176 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

punished for the hell he gave us all at Preston. That 
blue bonnet of his was like the clout of the devil him- 
self. Well, well, adieu. Thank you for your mead, and 
if ever I'm this way again- " 

"Go, since go you will," said she, "I shall see or 
speak to no man but you here this side of Lady Day. 
So, Captain, farewell. Grant me a favour?" 

"Ask it." 

" My cousin, here " 

"Sulky-face! Ay." 

"He's got business for me in Marske. The ford's 
swollen. We have no horse. Let him ride behind one 
of your men so far? You're going to Marske to look 
for Scanwood ? " 

"Certainly, Miss, we'll oblige you. Tim Jobling 
shall take him behind. Come, men, saddle. We must 
be off." 

"Give me a letter — so that the next company passes 
this way don't trouble me," she said. 

He scribbled something in a pocket-book, and tore it 
out. She took it. 

" Another glass before you go ? " 

"I'll not say no to that. Here's to King George! 
Will you toast him ? " 

She drank it down. 

"Just a good excuse to get a drink," she said. 

" Right. Women have no call to meddle with politics. 
And your cousin ? " 

"You can try him. But I fear he's stubborn. These 
sullen fits last for days. Here, Luke, drink to please me 
and the kind captain." 

She held the cup to his mouth and whispered, "Return 
here as soon as may be." 

Aloud she sneered, " Look you, the great baby ! He 



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THE BLUE BONNET 177 

is suffering me to spill the good liquor. His lips are 
close shut " 

"Waste no more time on the lout that will not drink 
when a lady begs him," th^ captain said. He wiped his 
lips. "Well, good-bye, then. . . . You were so glad 
to see me, you'll not refuse me a kiss at parting ? " 

"What are you thinking of, Captain Butler?" she 
minced affectedly. "And before your men, too." 

"Be hanged to my men ! They're busy getting off. 
You're the prettiest picking I've seen since I left my 
barracks at Hounslow and I cannot leave it unkissed ! " 

He forced her lips. The man in the chimney corner 
stirred. 

"Touches him nearly," said Butler, whose eyes shone. 
... "I could do with another, given freely. Maybe, 
if we were alone " 

She shook her head. 

"No good, eh? Your promise, Madam, was finer 
than your performance. But I'm a gentleman. Come, 
my lob-lie-by-the-fire, stump up ! " 

The man in the ingle nook, with one reproachful 
glance at Christina, rose. He tottered a little, and 
appeared dazed. Captain Butler, in sudden haste to 
be gone, clapped him on the* back. 

"Come, my little fellow, don't keep us waiting. 
We're bound to catch our gallows-bird before dark ! " 

The haggard eyes of the fugitive were fixed now on 
Christina, and now on the stained kitchen knife that 
lay on the table. 

" It's the money," she said hastily. " I was forgetting." 

Opening a shabby little leather bag that hung at her 
girdle, she produced a silver coin. 

"Here, take it, Luke. For all that Betty Candlish 
would have given us credit. There goes ! Don't drop 



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178 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

it, ye daft goner il ! And, mind, you'll have to come 
back by the bridge up Marske way, for these kind gentle- 
men won't be coming back, I fancy. It's saving him 
a matter of two miles, Captain, thanking you kindly, and 
my mother pining for her drops." 

The troopers in the yard were all mounted now, their 
bridles clinking, their horses pawing. Christina, stand- 
ing by Captain Butler's stirrup, bickering with him 
gaily to the last, watched her lover out of the corner of 
her eye, as he doggedly passed out, and hoisted himself 
up behind the man called Tim. He seemed woefully 
stiff. Christina supposed him to have a hurt somewhere, 
or was it merely the result of two nights' exposure? 
If it was the former, she promised herself a month's 
delicious nursing. Yet not a look did he cast in her 
direction as he rode away, uncovered, leaving one of 
Luke's old caps, which she had reached down from a 
nail for him, on the table beside the kitchen knife and 
the carrot scrapings. 

She saw it when she went in again. His negligence 
of any head covering must have looked odd and in- 
different, but then his sullen and cross demeanour had 
tallied exactly with her account of him. She was proud 
of the part she had played. 

Yet the first thing she did when the sounds had died 
away was to catch up a rough cloth, not over clean, 
that lay there, and rub her lips with it till the blood came. 

Then she* sat down for a little while with her head 
buried in the self-same cloth, crouching low in shame, 
remembering bitterly the indignities to which she had 
submitted in order to secure her false lover's safety. 

Half an hour she sat like this. TJien the ol"d clock in 
the corner struck wheezily. It was three o'clock in the 
afternoon. 

She remembered her mother. She ought to go and 



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THE BLUE BONNET 179 

see and comfort the old woman. Perhaps the rough 
troopers had frightened her. Heavy-footed, hating 
herself, loving Charles, she ascended the crazy stairs. 
The troopers had frightened her mother indeed. She 
was dead ! . . . 

The daughter, dry-eyed, left alone with death, did 
what was necessary. She washed the body of her be- 
loved, and dressed it, and laid her arms across her breast 
with a little sprig of marjoram out of her garden between 
the fingers, and covered up the cracked dim looking- 
glass with a fair white cloth. She went downstairs and 
procured a plateful of salt, which she laid on the dead 
wonjan's chest to fend off the evil spirits. She drew 
down the blinds of the windows that looked out over the 
garden on to the ford, and sat down near the horribly 
yawning hole in the flooring to await Luke — or Charles. 
Neither of them might come for a good hour or more. 
She did not know which would be the first. Charles 
might not come for days, but when he did he would be 
of good comfort, and grateful to her for saving his life 
at the expense though it were of half an hour's desperate 
but not irremediable degradation. It was nothing to 
her, considering the result, perhaps as little to him, and 
yet more than once during the ordeal she had fancied 
he was on the point of interposing and forbidding, at 
the risk of his life, the desecration of the lips that were 
his, and his only. He might not, perhaps, be willing 
to kiss her. ... No matter, she would dress his wound, 
and shelter him and be a mother, not a mistress, to 
him a while. He had not slept in a bed, nurse-tended 
by kind white hands, since Preston fight. ... He would 
kiss the hands sometimes ? ... So she dreamed. . . . 

About five o'clock she heard the thud of a horse's 
hoofs, trotting briskly towards her from the ford. 



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180 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Charles had been in luck, and had somehow or other 
managed to get hold of a horse ? . . . 

She ran down, leaping, in her haste to go the nearest 
way, over the gaping chasm that shelved in like the 
hangman's drop, in the middle of the floor. 

" My beloved!" 

A man stood, sheepish, in the house place. It was 
Captain Butler. 

"You ! " she stammered, and reeled. 

"Yes, 'tis I, poor fool, come back to know more of 
you and your wiles, my beauty. For that you are; and 
may be, now that I've given my men the slip for an 
hour, you'll let me have that kiss ? " 

Christina was holding on to the high back of the settle. 

"Ay, there's no doubt about it, you're a gay piece, 
and no one could call you kissing shy. 1 like it. But 
that poor lad who sat there — he couldn't stomach so 
much freedom, I fancy. You made his poor heart ache, 
and lost him his wits, now, wasn't it? . . . Well, well, 
he's the best judge of his own feelings, may be he's as 
well out of this troublesome world. . . ." 

"What do you mean, Captain?" 

"Only that that cousin of yours slipped off from be- 
hind Tim Jobling crossing the ford, and was washed 
away almost before we in the front knew what was 
happening. It's my belief he did it on purpose." 

"Drowned! Charles!" 

"Is that his silly name? I thought you mentioned 
some other. He said something to Tim, I believe, 
before he let go " 

"What was it?" 

"Oh, if you care to hear ! He said that he found the 
woman he loved was no better than a harlot, and he 
didn't care for his life any more since 'twas so. He just 
slipped off behind " 



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THE BLUE BONNET 181 

"And didn't any one lift a finger to help him?" she 
wailed. 

"Couldn't, I tell you, he was a deal too quick for Tim, 
seeing as he did it o' purpose. No, Miss, make no bones 
about it, his death lies at your door." 

She tottered, and he held out a clumsy hand. 

"Come, put it all behind you. Why should a fine 
girl like you sorrow for a half-witted yokel like that? 
You broke his heart, but what right had he to cast those 
bleary eyes of his on you? You are for a better than 
he. Come now — be pleasant ! You didn't use to look 
bashful. One would think it was a different woman I've 
come back to. You're handsome enough, though, in all 
conscience, even with that face of thunder on you. Will 
you or won't you, Mistress Daunet? Will you come to 
me — my pretty ? " 

He took a pull at the stoup of liquor that was where 
he had put it down, and held out his arms. 

Still the woman stood, dazed, dumbfounded, her 
ordinarily quick brain acting slowly. She began to* 
realize, by a series of successive shocks, that there was 
no one left to be helped or saved by diplomacy. She 
kept her distance, still eyeing the dark wet knife on the 
table. . . . She spoke at last, sombre, taciturn. . . . 

"My mother lies dead upstairs." 

"Does she so? Well, 'twas her time to die, wasn't 
it? We'll bury her decently. Come." 

He sat there, glorying in his work, his legs well apart, 
smiling fatuously, waiting for the fair sulky girl to forget 
her immediate griefs and fall on his neck for solace and 
comfort. 

" Dawdling 1 Playing the maiden, eh? You'll come 
in the end. What if your mother is dead? Eighty, I 
think she was? Trooper Tim gave her a fright. 
Finished her off. . . ." He was slightly drunk. "I've 



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182 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

left my men at Scan wood. I fancy its master is likely 
to seek the old earths after all. . . . Come, still thinking 
on your mother? Devil, don't I tell you she was old 
and ripe for death? We'll give her Christian burial, 
and do all things in order. . . ." 

He fumbled in his pockets. And Christina's hand 
made a quick outward movement. 

"And will you bury me decently too?" said she, 
advancing at last. With the dignity of a queen she sat 
down on the knee of the amorous captain, who fancied 
the hour of surrender had come. Indeed, he had some 
small excuse for thinking so, for with a gesture of 
abandonment she flung one long arm round his neck. 

"Ay, but don't strangle me 1 " he whispered, his chin 
buried in. her bare neck. Christina's other hand was 
busy at his coat lapel. 

She found the place, just over the collar bone — she 
had no science but she just happened on it, — and drove 
the long kitchen knife in straight. Its work was not 
done then. With an effort she drew the knife out and 
used it again. Captain Butler, before he fell off the 
chair, saw her eyes glazing, and for one moment held 
a dead woman in his arms. 



"And that, I think, was the way it was," said the 
romancer to his patient listener, as they sat together on 
the bare hillside sloping to the Bridge on the other side 
of the ruined battlement, and let their hands run through 
the cool straggling grasses that clothed its sad bleakness 
a little. He raised his hand, that had been fumbling 
negligently in the ground beside him. 

" Look here ! A daffodil ! This must have been poor 
Christina Daunet's garden ! " 



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THE WITNESS 



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THE WITNESS 



I was sitting over my fire in my hut in Penanga Creek, 
Wyoming, when the idea came to me — weakly, dreamily, 
at first, but later on strongly and vividly, that I must go 
home. It was, as I confusedly made it, seven years since 
I left Europe. I felt the thing that had driven me forth 
less keenly, and I realized that in seven years things must 
have quieted down a bit. Sally, too, being of a cheerful, 
easy-going make, would have forgotten what had hap- 
pened on that one night, since in the nature of the case 
there could have been no discovery, no scandal. 

No one could have known anything about it, no one 
had witnessed her act except Roger, my dog, who now 
lay so quietly, numb with advancing age, between my 
feet in front of the fire. Roger had been only a year old 
on that short summer night, a clumsy, flopping puppy 
that followed me unsteadily, swaggering from side to 
side, down the garden path of the old haunted manor 
house where Sally James lived., It was flagged with 
broad white stones, and the gate of it opened straight 
on to the road that led to. Durham, to Darlington, and 
to the other ends of the earth, where I am now. 

I ran away, like a coward, and yet not a coward, for I 
loved Sally James and I knew too much. I turned at the 
gate, and I gazed back at the windows of the house with 

185 



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186 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

their close-drawn blinds. I thought they looked like 
eyelids let down over anxious dreams. I saw the one 
window in the oldest part of the house where Sally, half 
dressed, was peeping through the blind, annoyed, yet 
uncomplaining at my departure. She knew men; she 
thought I was just going to put my head under the pump, 
and freshen my aching brain and my eyes that had looked 
on so much since they closed in sleep the night before. 
Then after a walk over the common, with my dog at my 
heels, I should return to her, stay with her through the 
long years to come, and profit by her crime. She had 
rid me of a nuisance. She did not realize — how could 
she, being hard Sally James ? — that I could not bear the 
thought of seeing her face again. She was so careless of 
other people's feelings that she knew less of what I felt 
than the siUy young dog who slunk at my heels — or the 
pert robin that perched on the cheek of the gate-post. 
The robip, with its head on one side, seemed to stare at 
me and leer horribly as I closed the gate behind me, and 
went out into the world for ever. I never meant to see 
Sally again, I never meant to write or receive a letter; I 
never meant to look at a newspaper again ; I never meant 
to know if she were tried for murder or not. I only knew 
that I did not mean to chance having to bear evidence 
against her. 

There was very little likelihood of that. Mrs. James, 
the bouncing, jolly widow and my secret love, had saved 
money left her by her late husband and had managed to 
buy the freehold of Dewlap Hall, an old manor house 
that had seen better days. It had been one of the homes 
of the Conyers family, but it was now little more than a 
forlorn, dejected farmhouse, standing alone in a couple 
of acres about three miles out of Durham. It looked 
even a better place than it was. Once you were inside 



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THE WITNESS 187 

you saw that its ruin was only a question of time. It was 
slowly crumbling, festering, powdering away. Half the 
rooms were unsafe, the walls of the others were shored 
up, partitioned off, reduced to a fourth of their original 
size. One floor was taken bodily away — I have been told, 
to lay the ghost. The sharp, jagged rafters sagged down- 
wards from the sides. The floor of this room was 
cobbled, it had lancet windows : people said it was the 
old chapel. Sally used the place as a wash-house; it 
opened out of her kitchen, which was the old and only 
hall of the first house. That, Mr. Wilson the vicar had 
told us, was built in the time of Edward II. Of course 
the house was haunted. ^ A grey lady. Sally's bedroom, 
above, must have been taken off the whole top of the hall, 
the floor was very bad, and though originally it must 
have been a handsome-sized, airy and pleasant room in 
spite of its low ceiling, the late owner had mistrusted the 
eastern portion of it so much that he had walled it off 
with boards and some concrete, calmly reducing the best 
bedroom to a cell about ten feet square. 

It was big enough for two people, for Sally and me, 
drunk with love. I believe Sally and I would have made 
love if we had been fastened in a barrel studded with 
nails, and rolled down to the sea. But not room enough 
for three. 

On that night,. Sally and I, absorbed in each other, 
had not heard the heavy druhkard's footfall of my wife 
on the creaking steps of the staircase that led up from 
the house place below, and the sound of the door of the 
room where we were, being slowly pushed open. The 
heavy bolt that should by rights have gone across it, was 
lying on the wicker chair by the bed. Sally, in her wild 
confidence in the impossibility of molestation in this 
lonely part of the country, had omitted to run it into the 



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188 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

thole holes on either side of the lintels, as usual. When 
you did that you made the chamber into a real castle of 
strength, but she had forgotten all but me. 

And poor mad Mary, my wife, stood like the ghost of 
Dewlap Hall, and watched us. Sally, half dazed, may 
have thought that she was the ghost. . . . 

Anyway, she struck out with the heavy iron bar that 
lay ready to her hand. She was strong. Hardly another 
woman could have wielded it. My dog Roger looked up 
from where he slept, crouched on my coat at the foot of 
the bed on Sally's packing-box. . . . 

The iron bar was immensely weighty, my poor old 
wife fell like a log. Roger turned up his eyes. ... I 
said, "Down, Roger ! " and Roger lay down. Though 
a mere puppy, he was well trained. 

Sally dropped the bar, with a loud clang on the floor. 
There was nobody below to hear it. It lay there, till seeing 
my eyes fixed on it, she picked it up easily and replaced 
it on the chair without even looking at it. But there 
was no blood or even hairs on it, I could have told her, 
for I had got hold of Mary by that time, and felt her, and 
I was perfectly sure that she had been stunned — killed 
outright. So far as I could see, the skin was not even 
broken. Her clumsy straw hat was of course smashed, 
battered in, and her very thick black hair lay like a mat 
over the crown of her head. 

Sally asked me if she were dead, and I answered, yes, 
stone dead. Sally shrugged her shoulders, as who should 
say, It's fate. Then without blinking, she put a petticoat 
on over her nightgown, and drew the strings of it tightly 
round her waist till I should have thought they would 
have cut her, but I expect she didn't feel much at that 
particular moment. At least, I didn't. I kept my eyes 
on her all the time ; I thought it might prevent me from 



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THE WITNESS 189 

going mad. And Sally was sure to know what to do. 
It was her murder. . . . 

It was a very warm night, and getting on for two 
o'clock, I should have thought, but no light pierced 
through the pieces of red gingham that Sally had hung 
up and gathered into a curtain for the window. 

I watched Sally. She came up to me and took hold of 
Mary's feet, and then dropped them again after I had 
taken the corpse by the shoulders. She stood a moment, 
a bit mazed, then she thought of the bar and went to it 
where it lay on the chair by the bedside. She lifted it, 
and examined its iron surface. . . . 

" Give it to me," I said. I stupidly thought of burn- 
ing it. 

" Nonsense ! " Sally said, quite sharply, wiping it on 
her nightgown and replacing it on the chair. "Let it 
stay there where it always lies. Old Betty is used to 
the sight of it." 

She was wise. She returned to me and my burden. 
She took hold of Mary's feet again, and didn't drop them 
this time, but tied a towel round her ankles, thus binding 
them firmly together. Then, both of us breathing 
heavily, we got the body down the stairs. I went first. 
I could not see Mary's face, but I saw Sally's, and her 
lips were red, and tightly primmed. Roger, clumsily 
trying to pass us and our burden on the narrow flight of 
steps, got under our feet and nearly threw us down, and 
she unclosed her lips to swear at him. If she had not 
spoken, I believe I should have dropped. 

We laid Mary on the stone-flagged kitchen floor, while 
Sally fumbled with the latch of the wash-house. There 
was a door out of that into the back yard, and thence into 
a little orchard, and out of that into the wood which 
stretched away towards Finchale Priory at the back of 



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iqo TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the house to the north. It was conveniently full of old 
abandoned pit shafts. I knew that well enough. But it 
was not until we gained the door of the wash-house that 
it occurred to me what Sally meant to do, and had mean t 
to do from the moment w r e first lifted Mary to bring her 
downstairs. 

There was a little more light now, but still it was "hot 
light enough to see, and I hoped it would not be until we 
got into the shelter of the woods. Sally held the feet, as 
before. She swung a lantern by a string from her teeth, 
she had refused to let me carry it. Sally had not much 
faith in me at the best of times, and now when so much 
depended on it, I could see that she meant to see to every- 
thing herself. Roger followed us; he was very humble 
and submissive since Sally had spoken to him so 
roughly. 

She swore again, but not at him, for he kept out of her 
way. It was when the long brambles caught the hem of 
her nightgown that hung below the petticoat. Her eyes 
flashed a little now and then in the light of the swinging 
lantern. ... 

"I can hardly walk, I've got the bloody hem of my 
shift so wet," she said, roughly. 

"Can you manage?" I asked, speaking very faint. 
She had said "bloody"! 

" Yes. Good thing it's dew, not blood, after all ! " 
she reassured me. "Don't talk. I've no breath for 
talking. My word ! I sweat, and no mistake ! " 

I didn't want to talk. I was thinking of Mary, slung 
between us, dead as dead. And the last time I saw her 
she was dead drunk in the streets of Cardiff, reeling 
about, carrying on her trade. There was no need, that 
was the shame and disgrace. I was earning good wages 
at Neath as a colliery man, and gave her her fair share. 
But she had always taken too much and never been 



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THE WITNESS 191 

respectable, not even when I married her. They say those 
two things go together, and luckily there were no children. 
As soon as I found out what she was up to, I left her, 
deserted her, people would say, and drifted to Durham. 
That was full two years ago. 

How did she find out that I had come to Durham, and 
was working at the Elvet pit ? I never wrote to her once. 
How did she know I was living with Sally James in her 
house three miles out of Durham ? How had she tracked 
me ? I could not tell, then, and I don't know now ! 

I was wondering, wondering, and the undergrowth 
grew thick and the nut boughs lashed my cheek in .the 
dark. I stumbled a little as we got along with that 
between us, and I forgot to keep step with Sally, and she 
swore at me for an awkward fool that was giving her, a 
weak woman, all the work to do. 

We came at last to the old pit shaft Sally and I knew 
of, for it had been one of our trysting places in her hus- 
band's lifetime. Most of these disused shafts are walled 
round with brick, but this one wasn't, for some reason or 
other. It was carelessly staked round with wattle, wait- 
ing to be done properly, I suppose. A drunken man 
could easily fall in and no one be any the wiser. For a 
pit shaft is so deep that you can see the stars in the 
daylight. 

Mary must have walked all the way from Cardiff. It 
was the first time I felt sorry for her. I had been till then 
so angry with her for coming ferreting and spying, that 
if you had asked me, I should have said I was glad she 
had got her deserts. But I could not help seeing the worn 
soles of her shoes as we heaved her over the edge of the 
hole, and they were fairly walked through. I felt sorry 
for her then. 



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192 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Mary was gone, without sticking or any awkwardness, 
and Sally breathed hard. She put out her hand and 
fondled Roger. 

" Good dog ! " she said. " He never barked. He won't 
tell tales of us, will he, pet ? " 

Roger licked her hand, as an answer to her question. 
He was even at that age a wonderfully bright, intelligent 
dog. 

Then Sally stooped, and tried to pick the long bramble 
trail out of the hem of her nightgown. It resisted — it 
was hopelessly entangled. 

"Stand on it," she said, "while I walk on a bit. One 
can always get rid of followers that way." 

She alluded to the old superstition that a girl who 
attracts the wild wood tendrils will always have plenty of 
sweethearts. Her white feet were quite bare. ... I 
never knew a hardier woman than Sally. She looked 
down into the shaft once, though of course there was 
nothing to see, it was too dark and deep down; then 
she turned round sharp and decided. . . . 

"We had best get back to bed now," she said cheer- 
fully. "There's a good piece of night left, and I'm sure 
we both need a rest." 

I caught her up in my arms, and carried her home, ;t 
was only a little bit of a way, no distance at all, though 
coming out it had seemed so terribly long. She liked 
being carried. Once she put up her mouth and kissed me. 
I took her in and set her down in the middle of the 
house place. She tottered a little, like a china ornament 
when you have been shifting it. She turned to go 
upstairs again. I could not manage it. 

"Sally," I said, "I think Til go and get a wash." 
"Do," she said, "and you can draw yourself some 
cider. There's plenty in the barrel in the corner there." 



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THE WITNESS 193 

I watched her ascend the stairs, rather heavily. Then 
I whistled my dog. The door of the house stood open, 
the dawn was just breaking. I latched it carefully 
behind me, and went away down the garden path. I 
looked back once — only once. Then I took my resolve 
definitely. I have never seen her since. 

• •••••• 

I secured a passage out West, and we sailed, my poor 
dog and I, the very next day. And in my panic I have 
never looked at a paper from that day to this. I don't 
know whether there was an inquiry or not, or whether 
any suspicion fell on Sally ; I should say not, she is too 
clever. Of one thing I am quite sure; the body was 
never found. They never are when they are lost like 
that. I have an idea too that my wife Mary was never 
even missed in Cardiff — who cares when prostitutes die 
or disappear ? If, as was probable, no one had chanced 
to see her approach Dewlap Hall in the early hours of 
the morning, then there was absolutely no witness of 
Sally's crime except myself and my dog Roger* 

Yet, the thought that plagued me all through that 
night passes through my mind, and worries me still. I 
had deserted Mary — I had not seen nor communicated 
with her or any of my old friends in and ne&r Cardiff — 
I am a Welshman — for three years ! 

So how did she know where to find me ? Did she 
settle to visit all the great mining centres in turn ? And 
did she draw Durham early in the game, and when she 
got to Durham, how did she get wind of my living at 
Dewlap with Sally James ? 

My thoughts, for the last seven years, have not been 
pleasant, but they are all the company I have had. I 
have worked hard here, I have even had a bit of luck 
and been able to lay by a little, but I have hardly 



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194 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

spoken to a single soul. The last man who spent a night 
in my cabin was a taciturn Japanese who had less con- 
versation than even Roger. 

It is killing me. That is why two nights ago I took 
up my pen and wrote to Sally. Mrs. James, Dewlap 
Hall, near Durham, England. I must see her again. 
And to-day I have managed somehow or other to mail 
the letter. Now I wait. 

• •••••• 

I waited a good month. Then there came an answer, 
an answer I had ridden in for to Blizzardville every 
other day all through the time, speaking to no one 
except the clerk at the window of the post office — an 
uncommon dull and slow dog he was. 

She wrote — 

" You wretch ! What a surprise to hear from you ! 
Have you returned to your senses? I congratulate you. 
Your letter seems to mean that you have, and I don't 
mind saying how glad I am ! Oh ! George, how could 
you walk off like that, and I lying there expecting you 
to come back after you had had a wash and a drink to 
buck you up. Men always feel these things so much 
more than women, at the time. As for me, you'd be 
surprised to hear it, but sometimes at nights I feel as 
much remorse as you would have me. Only then when 
the good daylight comes in at the pane I feel so different, 
one would not believe it was the same woman. Morning 
thoughts always are more cheerful. You see, I can't 
forgive her for coming to dig me and you out in our 
happiness. She had nothing more to do with you. She 
drank, she sold herself, she got what she deserved, even 
if it was me that gave it to her. I saw it all as I lifted 
that great bar. She came meddling, and like all meddle- 



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THE WITNESS 195 

some fools, she got what for. If you had considered 
it yourself for one moment you never would have left me 
like that. But now you have thought it over, and you've 
thought better of it, and you are coming back to me I 
Come, only come ! All is serene, as I daresay you 
know. Nobody bothered. William Dysart fooled about 
me a little when you left the field free, but I treated hirn 
with a high hand and I am shot of him except for a 
lowering look he gives me over the top of his pew, in 
Church on Sunday. They say he is my enemy, but 
even he can't see to the bottom of a pit shaft, and there's 
no evidence. I am respected in the place, and I can 
marry any one I please, and when I please. Shan't it 
be you, George? Aren't you and I bound by the 
memory of that night and what I did to get you ? Come. 
Your own wicked, level-headed Sally. 

"P.S. — I suppose the dog Roger, who was a puppy 
then, has died a natural death ? Poor old dear ! I was 
jealous of that dog, I always felt you liked him nearly as 
well as you liked me. Peace be to his bones." 

Roger looked up at me, as I looked down his way when 
I came to that last piece all about him. I believe I read 
it aloud softly. I am in the habit of talking to Roger. 
He knows perfectly well what one says to him. I stroked 
him. " Dead ? Not a bit of it, old dog ! " I said. "We 
are all alive and kicking, aren't we? Very well pre- 
served, eyes a little bleary perhaps, not many teeth in 
our head, but those sound, and that's half the battle." 

Roger fawned on me. He is a quiet, taciturn creature, 
like his master, and I verily believe the sound of his 
own voice has got to scare him almost as much as mine 
does me. 

"You'll come to England with me, old dog, won't 

o 2 



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196 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

you ? You and me'll never be parted ; she must take us 
both for better or worse, eh ? " 

Roger's tail wagged. He said nothing, but of course 
he understood. 

I could not have left him, even if I had wanted to, 
to die alone in a strange country. Besides, he knows all 
about me. He saw it all. I can still see him looking 
pensively down into the pit shaft, after. ... He is my 
only confidant, for of course I never let on to any one, 
I could never risk giving Sally away. But a dog ! Yes, 
I am glad he knows. 

I could not get ready to leave for about a week, and 
before I started I got another letter from Sally. It must 
have been written not much more than a day after the 
first letter, and there seemed no particular reason why 
she should ever have written it. It was rather incoher- 
ent. The thought of our meeting again must have 
troubled her, must have a little turned her head. She 
mixed up all sorts of things in her letter, and mentioned 
Roger again three or four times, in connection with 
William Dysart, who she seems to fancy has got his 

knife into her. A despised lover, but still I began to 

fear that the sight of my dog would distress her, remind 
her of that awful night, when suddenly and without 
thought or premeditation she up and did a sin for me I 

What was I to do? It was but woman's nonsense at 
the best, and I could not leave my faithful beast to pine 
and starve because of a woman's whim ! I consoled 
myself with the reflection that a hard, sensible woman 
such as Sally had proved herself to be, would not allow 
any mere fancy to affect her for long. She would force 
herself to get over it, and ignore it as she had the other. 
I settled it the way I wanted to and took Roger with me. 

I made one tiresome discovery on the way home. I 



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THE WITNESS 197 

was pretty deaf, and could hear very ill unless the 
speaker addressed himself especially to me, and general 
conversation not at all. This saddened me. Even a 
slight deafness makes a man such a nuisance, and I 
thought it might put Sally off, or even set her wilful 
mightiness against me. Sally was never very patient 
at the best of times. You see I thought of everything in 
relation to her. Her crime, and her heartlessness and 
want of feeling with regard to it, seemed not to affect 
my appreciation of her in any way. Indeed, I admired 
her devil-may-carishness because it was on the whole 
the most decent way for her to behave. I should have 
hated her to whine and snivel. . . . 

• •••••• 

I walked out from Durham one fine Sunday morning 
in May, Roger trotting at my heels. I had asked no 
questions about Sally and her circumstances. I knew 
from her letter that she was well, and moreover I experi- 
enced some difficulty in framing questions, or indeed in 
getting into conversation at all. I do not believe I spoke 
more than two consecutive sentences all the way back, 
and those I mumbled in my beard, for all the world 
as if I were tongue-tied. No one bothered about me, I 
expect I was singularly unattractive, and for the most 
part I was left severely alone. I had lost all convivial 
habits, I did not care to see or hear anything. I never 
looked at a paper, my one idea was to see Sally again. 

Roger was not so unsociable. Indeed, my trouble 
with him was that he was the reverse. He seemed to be 
continually getting into conversations, and eventually 
into fights, with other dogs. One dog, a sandy, weedy 
terrier, lame of one leg, that we met as soon as we got 
out at Durham station, he seemed, after having fought 
handsomely with, to take a great fancy to, and the 



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198 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

wretched lame cur chose to follow us all the way out to 
Dewlap Hall. It was disturbing, and I should have pre- 
ferred to have kept my faithful dog entirely to myself at 
a moment like this. I was going to meet the woman I 
loved again after all these years. And only Roger 
knew what had been. 

It was Sunday morning, and I heard bells ringing at 
the different churches all the way out. Sally was stand- 
ing in the clear morning light, at the low door of her 
house close to the monthly rose-bush which stood as 
high as she did. There was but one rose on it. She 
wore a pink cotton dress. She had grown a little stouter. 
She held her hand straight across her forehead, against 
the sun which came into her eyes, and made her frown — 
or was it the sight of me ? For indeed, her black eye- 
brows were cruelly drawn down as Roger and I and 
Roger's fjiend came up the flagged path. But all she 
said was, as she took her hand away from her face and 
laid it in mine — 

"Come in." 

She pulled me inside, and shut the door in Roger's 
face. He set up a whine. 

" Poor Roger ! " I said in spite of myself, and my wish 
not to annoy her. "Don't you remember him ? " 

"Yes, but why did you bring the wretched creature 
here? I thought he was dead. I understood you to 
say so.' . . ." 

She stood there, quaking, quivering with anger. I 
had never seen Sally so unmanned. . . . 

"Never mind the dog, Sally, — kiss me." 

She kissed me, then she said thoughtfully — 

" Perhaps, on the whole I had better have him in ? " 

She opened the door, and drove away the stranger 
dog. Roger she seized, hauling him in by the collar. 



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THE WITNESS 199 

She then carefully bolted the door with one hand, stick- 
ing to Roger with the other. 

" Have you got a chain ? " 

"What for, Sally?" 

"To chain him up. I can't have him loose. He's 
been talking to that mongrel of Dysart's — I know the 
malicious beast — and when dogs get talking together — 
now " 

"Talking! My dear Sally ! " 

"Oh, you know what I mean. It was William Dysart 
who directed Mary here that night, or rather morning. 
He's longing to get his knife into me — or you." 

"But was there an inquiry? I didn't read any of the 
papers, I was so afraid of what I might see there . . . 
you understand?" 

She looked at me narrowly. Then she tossed her head. 

"Silly fellow, there was nothing to make you uneasy. 
There was not a word of gossip. No one knew. There 
was one woman less on the streets of Cardiff, that's all." 

" But you said William Dysart directed her here ? " 

"Yes, that came out, in a roundabout way, but he 
didn't know who she was, or that she didn't just come 
here and go straight back again where she came from. 
If only you had taken my hint ? " 

"What hint?" 

"About Roger." 

"You do puzzle me, Sally. . . . You only said you 
supposed he was dead. Well, he isn't, that's all, and 
mighty glad I am of it. And he isn't used to being tied 
up, and I'm not going to put upon the old dog now." 

"I can't help it. He doesn't go free in my house! 
We must talk it over. Meantime. . . ." 

She left me abruptly— Sally never dawdled, not even 
over a murder. Trailing Roger helplessly by the collar, 



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200 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

she went into the wash-house next door. I followed her 
grumbling a little, but still quite her humble slave. She 
made his collar more secure and then tied him to the 
copper. Then she reached up to a high shelf, and gave 
him a handsome plateful of bones and a pat on the head 
that had more of monition than of kindness in it. Roger 
looked up at me. He seemed to understand the situation 
better than I did. "Keep in with her, don't irritate 
her ! " he seemed to say. He shivered and seemed cold. 

"Tell him to be a good dog and behave himself," she 
said to me, "and he shall be loosed to-morrow, if I can 
feel quite sure of him. . . . Things are changed a bit, 
George, since you were here, and it is easy to see you 
have not kept pace with them. We must brush you up, 
and bring you up to date. . . ." 

She was very nervous. I followed her out of the 
wash-house, closing the door behind me, as she bade 
me, over her shoulder. In the living-room, she turned 
and faced me. 

She was a very beautiful woman, was Sally James. 
Her white teeth showed keen, as her short upper lip was 
drawn up from them. It made her look fine, but a bit 
cruel. She was not a very big woman, but stately, 
majestic even, at times, though she was only a farmer's 
widow and daughter. Just now, as she stood there, her 
arms at her sides, her broad breast, covered with pink 
print, was like a queen's. She was holding herself in 
readiness for my first embrace, and I longed for it too, 
and yet — I distrusted her. . . . She was without prin- 
ciple, a figure of shifting sand. She would always do 
exactly as she liked, and at the moment when she liked. 
. . . And she hated my dog. 

I invented excuses for her. ... 

"It is all association," I thought, as I hung back. 



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THE WITNESS 201 

"She is not so heartless as she seems. The dog was in 
the room when it happened, and by the shaft when we 
heaved Her over. He reminds her. . . . She has some 
feeling. . . ." 

My distrust turned all at once to tenderness, and I 
sat down on the settle and took her in my arms. She 
was very soft and yielding, and she sat meekly on my 
knee and kissed me passionately again and again. Then 
I kissed her back just the same. The tall clock ticked 
as it did on The Night . . . only louder. . . . 

There did not seem to be a soul about. I asked Sally 
if she had no servant to help her. 

"I've a woman — old Betty — do you remember her? — 
comes to help me all the week through, but she stays 
away on Sundays. The farm hands sleep nearly a 
quarter of a mile away. You'll stop to-night, George ? " 

I said I would. In my heart I wondered if her room 
was still the same, and if I could stand it ! 



II 

A movement in the room awoke me. I opened my 
eyes slowly, and in the grey light I put out my hand 
and missed Sally. She had left my side. 

I put some clothes on and went down the little steep 
single stairs, lit only by one dirty, cobwebby window. 
The scanty twilight, for that was all it was as yet, slid 
in and on to the white lintels, cracked and seamed with 
age — I never liked the dawn, when people die. The 
moon was paling quietly in the sky. The morning star 
still lingered there. At the corner where the stairs turned 
sharply, I looked down at my feet and remembered the 
job we had to get Mary past it ! Drops of sweat broke 



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202 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

out on my forehead just as they had done then. That 
and the dawn f I was very nervous. It was nearly the 
same as that other night. 

Sally was not in the house place. I stood — turning on 
my heels — and wondered where she was. I made no 
doubt that she was walking in her sleep — that seeing me 
had brought back all the sensations of that dreadful 
night, and that she was repeating them. Perhaps she 
had remembered the light on the lintel, the turn of the 
stair too? . . . What I feared was that she had gone 
wandering along the same dreary path through the wood, 
as far as the shaft. And then, when she got there, 
suppose her remorse was too much for her and she 
were mad enough to throw herself over ! . . . Such 
things have happened — I had seen The Bells and Mac- 
beth. Sally was rather like Lady Macbeth, and Lady 
Macbeth, strong-minded as she was, rued her deed, and 
walked in her sleep, and rubbed her hands. Sally had 
no blood to think about — only dew on the hem of her 
nightgown that time. . . . You couldn't tell blood from 
dew at night. . . . 

I heard a click — something like the sound made by 
one earthenware pan rubbing against another, in the 
wash-house. ... I had maligned Sally in my thoughts. 
She had merely gone downstairs to feed Roger ! The 
last remark she had made on going to bed was that he 
looked weakly, and on his last legs, and should by rights 
be put away before he suffered pain. Dogs die so hard, 
she had said. I opened the door that led into the old 
stone-paved chapel Sally used as a wash-house, and 
stood the beer-casks in. 

Sally, in her plain nightgown, was standing there 
barefoot on the cobbled stones. She looked a bit 
cranky. Her black hair hung partly down her back, 



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THE WITNESS 203 

and in elf locks, that were curls overnight, in her eyes. 
She had a great quantity of hair, and out of vanity she 
never took it all down when she went to bed, but half 
arranged it with pins and coloured ribbons. Her arm 
was raised to a high shelf whence she had taken Roger's 
provender earlier in the day. The movement made the 
fronts of her nightgown gape, and show her breast. 

She started when I came in, and dropped her arm 
guiltily. 

11 Go away, go away ! " she screamed, and put her 
hand behind her back. "Go away, and let me finish 
the job ! " 

"What job, in Heaven's name," I cried, "at this hour 
of night? We saw to the dog — no need to feed him 
again f " 

"Feed him, you idiot! . . . Poison him, more likely 
— anything to get him out of the way 1 " 

I went up to her and laid my hand on her arm. 

" I do believe the sight of Roger, who saw you murder 
Mary, has put you clean out of your wits, Sally, my 
dear." 

"And what about you and your wits, bringing the 
beast here ! " 

She rushed at poor Roger, who squatted at the extreme 
length of his cord, staring at her calmly, boldly, as if 
inviting her to stick him with the knife she brandished. 
He was never like any other dog. He did not plunge 
or bark. I saved him, I took the knife out of her hand, 
and flung it into a meal-tub close by. 

" Fool, fool ! " she yelled, but I put my hand over her 
mouth, and forced her back on the tub, so that she sat 
on the knife. I was so sure she was going mad that it 
made me calm and strong, and I tried to soothe her and 
speak gently to her, as one does to an invalid. 



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ao4 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"What do you want to kill my poor old dog for, 
Sally?" 

"I must. I must. He's dangerous." 

" Dangerous without a sound tooth in his head ? " 

" He has a tongue in his head " 

She looked at me narrowly, dragging down the outside 
corners of her eyelids like a bulldog. Then she pulled 
the fronts of her nightdress to, and tried to speak reason- 
ably. She succeeded more or less, but it was a great 
effort to her. 

"Don't you know what has happened here while you 
have been away sulking at the other end of the world ? " 
, I said nothing on purpose, so as not to put her back 
up. She stood staring at me, waiting for me to say 
something. I was so long, she began to shake in the 
cold. . . . And Sally never could keep quiet for long. 
Her temper broke out and she shouted at me. 

"Don't look so stupid, George! . . . God, it sends 
me mad ! " 

"Dear, try and tell me quietly." I sat down on an 
empty barrel. "Come here. Sit on my knee " 

She waved me away. She moistened her lips. 
"Don't treat me like a child or a madwoman, George. 
It is serious, sober earnest. I am telling you facts — not 
lies. The police — damn them ! — have got a new weapon, 
and they use it for all it is worth. . . ." 

She wrung her hands and walked up and down. 

"Oh, to think that all this time we have made pets of 
these wretched animals, and trusted them — I had a pet 
dog once — I put it away because it watched me, though 
I wasn't doing anything wrong. Yes, we used to let 
them go about with us, and see all we did, and listen 
to all we said ! Who minded talking secrets with an 
animal in the room, or doing anything one liked in a 



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THE WITNESS 205 

whole farmyard of beasts— then ? We didn't know that 
dog of yours was lying at the foot of the bed when Mary 
was done for : I never even thought of him f We actually 
let him go with us to the edge of the shaft and see us 
throw her in ! God, what fools we were ! " 

" But what can a dog do, you silly darling ? " 

"He can get us hanged! Get us both hanged! 
Why, your beast there — the very moment he got into 
England he must have learnt his power; he must have 
blabbed our whole story, and to that animal of Dysart's, 
too, the very last person ! " 

I tried to soothe her. 

"Sally, my dear, it's awfully cold here! You're 
shivering. Do let us get back to bed ! " 

I said that, but indeed I was getting to be afraid of 
her, in bed or out of it. 

She took no notice of me, but went on — 

"You never looked at a paper, you tell me, and yet 
they were full of it two years ago — the wonderful new 
discovery. Since then I've never kndwrt a moment's 
peace. My life has been hell. You may thank your stars 
you were out of it and had left me to bear the whole 
brunt of it," 

" For goodness' sake explain ! " I said crossly. 

She came quite close to me and whispered, "The 
police ! It's a new dodge of the police. I hate 'em 
and their filthy methods ! They get hold of animals — 
dogs preferred, because they're more intelligent — and 
shut them down there in cellars, behind locked doors, and 
then they torture them, rack them. ... George, can 
you bear the idea of Roger tortured, racked, — kept wfth- 
out water for a week ! Oh, if you had heard, as I have, 
scores of times, only I've run away and said nothing 
because of my guilty conscience — if you'd heard the 



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206 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

pitiful howls and whines at the back of the police station 
there, and knew that some poor helpless beast was being 
made to betray and give evidence " 

"But I don't see how a dog, or any animal indeed, 
could let on to what it knew even if it tried," I said, as 
grave as a judge, to papify her. 

"Oh, that's a mere matter of detail. The police have 
got a code— they manage to communicate with the 
beasts. They count the barks " 

"Ha! ha! " I laughed. 

"Don't dare to laugh, you ignorant fool. Have you 
never heard of those spiritualist affairs? The spirits 
rap, and the medium tells you what they are saying. 
Well, the dog barks — it comes to the same thing " 

She sighed deeply and seemed relieved. It was now 
quite day. Her candle flared. She was waiting for me 
to speak. I was "thinking of what would be the most 
soothing thing to say. ... It would not come. I was 
at my wits' end. The only thing I could think of was 
to get her back to bed and send for a doctor. 

I moved slightly in my indecision. She caught my 
hand. Hers was very hot. 

"George, what are you going to do? I've explained 
clearly, haven't I ? " 

"Quite." I had now fixed on a plan of action. 

"And now, Sally darling," I said softly, "just you 
get back to be3, and I'll settle Roger, and then I'll bring 
you a nice cup of tea." 

That plan failed. She screamed, and beat the air 
with her hands. 

"Settle him? Not you. It takes a man to do that — 
or a woman like me ! No, I know you. You want me to 
go quietly, while you untie the dog, and let him go free 
to get us hanged — me, at any rate. I murdered Mary — 



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THE WITNESS 207 

you only looked on. And your dog. What'll you get? 
I shall swing for it. He's sure to have told Dysart's 
dog, and the police '11 get wind of it — Dysart '11 take 
care of that. He's only waiting — has been these ten 
years. And then they can howk Mary up — what's left of 
her — and the damned dog '11 tell them who put her 
there." 

" Do you suppose Roger would betray us ? " I said, 
humouring her. She was crying now, violently, against 
my heart. 

"But, George — under torture — there is no knowing 
what he might do. Is there, Roger?" 

She left me, contemptuously, and bending down a 
little, spoke to Roger as if he were a human being. That 
gave me a turn, and I felt very queer. She seemed so 
sure of herself, and her tale. Roger appeared to listen. 
He barked three times . . . then four times . . . then 
more. I lost count. But Sally didn't, apparently. She 
wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her nightgown, tossed 
her head back and cried triumphantly — 

"There, he says I had better warn you ! He can't be 
quite sure — he's not so young as he was — his power of 
endurance is weakened ! That's what he says, as well 
as he can — to me who understand him. . . . Did you 
notice," she continued, "how Dysart's dog limps? 
Well, that's because — every one knows it, though it's 
supposed to be a secret — the police examined him — 
tormented, I call it — a year ago, in connection with a 

case of arson. Dysart's ricks were set on fire " she 

chuckled. 

" Who was accused ? " 

"Me." 

"And did you " 

"That's not the point. But Dysart's dog was got to 



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2o8 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

admit that he had seen one of my men loitering about 
at an awkward time — the time when it happened, in 
fact. The police couldn't make anything of his evidence 
— it was too scanty, luckily ; but all the same, he's gone 
lame ever since. I hate the police as I hate sin. . . . 
Brutes they are ! . . . Roger, good dog, tell me how 
did you learn the code in this short time ? " 

Roger barked gently, a little chain of barks. 

"From Dysart's dog, he says. It's quite simple. 
Well, George, look here — no, I'm not cold when I'm 
interested-— I'll go on getting it from Roger, and perhaps 
I'll be able to convince you that for his own sake, Roger 
had better be put out of the way. He wishes it. . . ." 

"I am convinced," I said. I was convinced that she 
was off her head on this particular point, and that a 
good rest would set her right. I put my arm round her, 
and tried to kiss her and lead her away. But she pushed 
me off. 

"Go and sit over there. Don't worry me. I want all 
my wits about me now, and once you see the danger — 
if you love me you won't set the life of an old toothless, 
worn-out dog against mine, for that's what it comes 
to. 

" I do love you, Sally. . . . Now, Roger, stand and 
deliver. Answer the lady." 

There is no good fighting hallucinations, it is best to 
humour them. Any doctor would have agreed with me 
that it was useless to argue with a woman so terribly 
excited as Sally was. There she stood, barefooted on 
the stone floor, in the light circle that the candle made, 
waving her arms and casting shadows of awful length 
and shape. The black jagged ends of the rafters of the 
broken flooring over her head framed her in spikes, as 
they sagged and drooped towards the middle of the room 



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THE WITNESS 209 

where she was. Nice home-coming for a man after all 
those years f . . . I wished, then — how I wished ! — I 
had stayed in Wyoming with my faithful Roger, and 
only seen Sally as I remembered her, plucky, resolute 
and sensible, instead of the all-to-pieces madwoman 
remorse had made of her. 

But she was determined to go through with the mad 
farce. She stooped, tossed back her hair and fixed 
Roger with her eyes. He met them as dogs do without 
flinching or turning away. Poor dear old Roger was so 
faithful and so old, I did wish she would leave him 
alone. But no — 

"Roger," she said solemnly, "did Dysart's dog warn 
you of the state of things here, and of what might happen 
to you ? " 

A lot of little orderly barks answered her. Though 
Roger always did bark when you spoke to him in a 
certain domineering tone, it was fairly horrible. 

Sally turned to me, and her voice was lifted with pride. 

"He says yes, that he is fully informed. Moreover, 
Dysart's dog has told him that his master has had sus- 
picions of you ever since a certain tramp woman he met 
on the Witton-Gilbert road was so keen on finding her 
way to you. William Dysart told her she would prob- 
ably find you in bed with me, blast and curse him ! I 
am glad I burnt five of his ricks ! " 

"Come, come, Sally, does my dog really say all 
that?" I mocked her. 

"He says that and a lot more. That Dysart went 
straight to the police this morning after seeing you and 
your dog walk across the market-place — now, then ! " 

"Damn it all, that's where Roger picked up the cur 
first," I called out, for I own this struck me. And the 
dog's manner was disquieting. All this was exciting 
p 



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2io. TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and very bad for him. He shivered and whined very 
low. 

" Roger, Roger, old man 1 " I caressed him and talked 
to him as if he was human and sensible, as indeed he 
was, but only as dogs — the best of them — are. "Don't 
take on so f What is it ? What's the matter ? " 

"He'll tell you fast enough," Sally said, grinning. 
She went up to him, too, and passed her hands over his 
back. "Come, tell us all about it, good dog." 

I couldn't bear to see her lay her Judas hand on him. 

I shouted, "Don't you touch my dog, you " I 

couldn't find a word bad enough for her — not even one 
of the worst; all my love for her had gone, melted away. 

"All right! " she answered carelessly, desisting. 

So we both stood at an equal distance from Roger, 
who barked incessantly for about five minutes. I thought 
I noticed gaps between the groups of barks, as it were, 
but even now I cannot be quite sure. Sally had got me 
into the same state as the dog, we were both beside 
ourselves — fairly bewitched, I think. 

Now Sally translated, in a level voice. Her quiet was 
more awful than her bluster. 

" He says, ' Master, save me from the torture. I am 
old, I have not many months to live. Shoot me first. I 
may not be able to stop myself from betraying you— and 
her. Shoot me, in mercy ! Shoot me ! ' " 

" Is that so, Roger ? " I asked him. The spell wrought 
on me so that I began to believe it. " Do you want me 
to kill you ? " 

He barked— yes, he barked horribly. 

Then I turned on Sally, and she held up her head and 
looked me with insolence in the face, and the dog began 
to plunge and strain on the cord, barking furiously all 
the time. 



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THE WITNESS 211 

"You devil," I yelled, "you are taking me in f This 
is all a plan got up to make me put away my faithful 
old dog ! " 

" Look at your dog ! " she said, calmly. " He has more 
sense than you. Do you know what he is trying to do? 
He's trying to commit suicide — he says it's his only 
chance, if you won't shoot him. You coward 1 Afraid 
to put him out of his misery and help him to get out of 
the way before he's forced to betray you ! Go and get 
your gun ! Kill him, man — or let me." 

I came out of my maze just in time. I saw Sally 
whip the knife out from under her and go for Roger 
with it. The dog had nearly succeeded in strangling 
himself — he had come to make gurgling noises in his 
throat. . . . But I was all there, now. ... 

"Don't you do it, old dog ! " I up and shouted. "I'll 
settle her, as she settled Mary ! " 

• •••••• 

And that is why I am sitting here in Durham gaol 
waiting to be hanged, and a good riddance too. I don't 
care to live. . . . Poor Roger did manage to commit 
suicide. He knew. 



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THE BAROMETER 



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THE BAROMETER 

There existed a few years ago, in the Yorkshire wolds, 
a state of affairs in which the barometer was more con- 
sulted than the Bible, and the only barometer in the 
district hung in the hall of the Vicarage and belonged 
to the parson, who scanned it daily and out of its 
abstruse lettering gave no hope to his pining household. 
The relentless needle stood ever at "set fair," and the 
terrible drought, which had already lasted for six whole 
weeks, continued. The dreary sheet of sky overhead 
stretched in its pitiless blueness over the baked brown 
earth that lay beneath, parched and cracked and yawn- 
ing for rain. In between the rift set apart for their 
habitation, walked sad human beings, sighing and com- 
plaining, full of vague physical uneasiness and sense of 
stress of longing. 

The Church and Vicarage of Barmoor, and the few 
cottages to which it ministered, made the only break in 
the wilderness of moorland that stretched away for miles 
to Pickering on the one side and Danby Moor on the 
other. Three trees grew near the Vicarage : the boughs 
of one hung over the roof of the lean-to, and made a 
land-mark over the moor. In the early spring they had 
been fine bunches of verdure. Now their tattered and 
disconsolate foliage hung motionless, shrinking day by 
day into the brown semblance of what were once green 
leaves, A little beck ran at the bottom of the parson f 9 

215 



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2i6 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

garden, but it was now all but dry. Everything was 
dried and wasted, except the heather which sprouted and 
thickened and browned under the desolating shine of the 
pitiless sun, while the air above it quivered with 
refraction. 

"The air is dancing ! " cried the parson's boys, lying* 
in the thick tufts and looking towards the low ridges 
that bounded their moor to the north. Later on it grew 
so hot that the very sun was veiled in mist, and the air 
did not dance any more, but stood still with weariness, 
so the children said, again. A lighted candle, held in 
the kitchen garden, flared straight up, like a pillar. 

The children tried it — they tried everything — every- 
thing permissible under the strict system of Vicarage 
discipline — to amuse themselves, in these days, when" 
their elders were too tired and cross to undertake to keep 
them happy. They wandered about together, their arms 
heavily linked round each other's shoulders, dragging 
their feet along the cinder paths in an irritating unison. 
They stood now, in their baggy little home-made clothes, 
on the path that led down the kitchen garden, bordered 
with feeble flowers. It was only bordered; the middle 
patch of ground was, perforce, devoted to usefuPvege- 
table cultivation. The living of Barmoor was not a rich 
living, and the Rev. Matthew Cooper, its incumbent, 
stood very low in position, birth, and education. 

His gardener, who was also the sexton, was digging 
the potatoes for early dinner. He grunted while he dug, 
and his back was turned to the children, who watched, 
with a kind of fascination born of ennui, the turn of 
the fork and the roll of the loose mould, and the horny 
hand that came down every now and then and gathered 
up the harvest of his toil and flung it into a basket. 
Saunders was careless, and let several potatoes roll back 



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THE BAROMETER 217 

into the furrow, out of the eight or so that each turn of 
the fork should yield. 

"Oh, Saunders, look, ye've missed one!" piped the 
youngest child. 

"Happen I have, Master John," replied the old man. 
" It's ower hot to be fashed ! " 

The child sighed. 

"Won't it really rain soon, Saunders dear ? " he asked 
wearily. He had heard so much lately of this wonderful 
rain that was to heal all ills and make the world a 
pleasant place again. Child-like, he had forgotten what 
rain was like, and how he hated it, since it kept him 
indoors, and spoiled his play. 

"Happen it may, happen it mayn't ! " muttered the old 
^servant sulkily. With a sudden access of spite, he 
* added, "Didn't the master pray for it i' church last 
Sunda' ? But some folks has no influence with the 
Almighty. A'm sayin' that the Lord ought to do it for 
His ain sake — the bonny garden's fair perished for the 
want of a little kindly moisture." 

" I think it will rain soon ! " said the youngest child 
again gravely. In his blue eyes was something of the 
rapt look of a visionary. 

"Well, it doesna' look much like it," grumbled the 
old fellow, pointing up with his fork to the sky that 
hung above, a wall of greyness, and coming very close 
to earth, somehow. "What for suld it rain, think'st 
tha' ? " 

" Because it must in .the end," replied the child 
sturdily. "It wants to rain so badly. It is like me, 
when I want to cry and can't. Oh, Saunders, there's 
another potato you've left. What a lot you miss ! " 

"Gan awa'! .Gan awa'," said Saunders impatiently, 
"and let me get done. Gan awa' an tew Hannah ! " 



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218 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He shook his pitchfork at them with playful savagery, 
and they turned away. 

"Listen, Willie," said the child called John, confi- 
dentially taking his brother's arm, and leading him 
towards the kitchen, a low, one-storied outhouse attached 
to the house, overshadowed by the biggest of the elm 
trees. "Listen, Willie; I think the sky is like a great 
wall, very thick, and yet very brittle. There's all sorts 
of queer things going on the other side of it, that we 
can't see." 

"Tell us," said the elder boy, dimly interested. 

"There's great bulls roaring, and sparks flying, like 
in Hobbie Noble's forge, and a noise — such a noise ! 
If there comes a hole in the wall ; we shall see it." His 
eyes dilated; he squeezed his less poetical minded 
brother's hand. 

"Hout ! " said the listener, "I don't care for that story 
much. Let us go in, and bide with Hannah a bit." 

The Vicarage rooms were damp and insufficiently 
lighted, but the Vicarage kitchen was bright and 
pleasant. Hannah's lime and marl floor was freshly 
washed, her copper vessels as bright as the mirror in 
Mrs. Cooper's best bedroom ; but in spite of all these 
signs of previous activity the girl herself was sitting in 
a limp and weary attitude, her knees apart, and a great 
bowl of peas between them, which she was "podding" 
for dinner. Her eyes were heavy ; her big lump of flaxen 
hair hung on one side of her head ; her clumsy red hands 
moved among the pods lazily and inattentively. "Deary 
me — a deary me ! " she murmured to herself at short 
intervals. 

"Now, bairns ! " She roused herself as the two slunk 
in. "I've not time for none of you. Gan awa' and 
play, there's good childer ! " 



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THE BAROMETER 219 

"Don't be cross, Hannah!" said the eldest timidly. 
"We've only corned in for a sup of milk." 

"The milk is all gone sour," she replied shortly.' "Ye 
mun just content yersel's wi' a drink of water from the 
pump. Now be off with you ! " 

She gave the thin, inoffensive house-cat a hoist with 
her foot, and settled down to her peas again. 

The pump in the garden had gone dry long since and 
Hannah knew it. The water they used in the house- 
hold — that all the village used — came from one place, 
the well at the bottom of the village, which had luckily 
continued its functions in spite of the drought. 

The children, as Hannah knew well enough, did not 
really want anything to drink, they wanted nothing but 
the antidote of human conversation to the restlessness 
and uneasiness that they shared with Hannah and 
Saunders, and what their father was apt to call "the 
lower animals." The house-dog was as restless as they, 
and would neither play with them nor stay quiet in his 
kennel. The hens fluttered brusquely in the hen-house, 
and the feverish rushing of wings that went on there 
made it an unpleasant abiding-place for the children. 
They sometimes amused themselves by going in to hunt 
for eggs, but they left them alone to-day, and wandered 
on to the open study window, where the Reverend 
Matthew Cooper, in hot, black clothes, was working at 
his sermon for next Sunday, putting his hand up to 
his head every now and again. 

The two little boys were always somewhat in awe of 
their stern father, and all they dared do now was to 
stand and watch him, until the intermittent scraping of 
their feet on the walk in front of the window roused him 
from his meditations. He looked up; his brow was 
pained. 



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220 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

" Well, my laddies, what do you want ? " He spoke 
kindly enough, but his voice dragged with fatigue and 
oppression. 

"Father," asked the eldest child, "Father, tell us; 
why don't they send rain when you pray for it?" 

"You had better go and ask your mother," said the 
Vicar, with the sort of grim humour in which he usually 
dealt. He was by nature a hard, cold, God-fearing, 
painstaking, undeveloped man, conscious of having a 
wife who managed him. "What about your lessons? 
Willie, I gave you a chapter to write out. Go and do 
some work if you can't play." 

"But we've got a headache, Father." 

"So have I — splitting. Run away now, and let me 
go on with my sermon. I haven't even chosen my text 
yet. . . . ' Who doeth great things and unsearchable. 
. . . Behold, He withholdeth the waters and they dry 
up. . . . He bindeth the waters in His thick clouds, 
and the cloud is not rent under them. . . . He destroyeth 
the perfect and the wicked. . . . If the scourge slay 
suddenly, He will laugh at the trial of the innocent! ' " 

The children left him, in desperation, and, going down 
to the bottom of the garden, took off their socks and 
sat with their feet in the diminished brook. The dog 
would not come with them, but snapped and growled 
at John when he tried to make overtures to it. Hannah, 
who came to look for them to fetch them to early dinner, 
could not find them, though they were only under the 
shade of the big rowan-bush near the brook-head. But 
she did not trouble herself to look very far, she herself 
could not have told you what ailed her. 

" I cannot find them, mistress," she said to their mother 
sitting, carving-knife in one hand and fork in the other, 
before the family joint, which Hannah had set before 
her, previous to going in search of the truants. 



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THE BAROMETER 221 

"Oh, very well ! if they don't choose to come in to 
their meals ! " 

Mrs. Cooper helped her husband to a plateful, and sent 
it in to him to his study, which he had intimated he was 
too busy to leave. She ate a small portion herself — 
not much — it was too hot to be hungry. She was a 
hard woman, and the absence of her two little sons did 
not affect her appetite in the least. 

The kind-hearted maid gave them what she called "a 
bite and a sup " later on, when they came and put their 
apprehensive heads round the door cheek. She did not 
scold them. The youngest boy looked very pale and 
white, and avoided her eyes. 

"Poor bairn ! " she said, "he wants setting up with 
the sea air." 

The two children lay down after they had eaten, and 
slept on a heap of sacking, very clean and dry, near 
the woodstack. Their little bedroom was over the 
kitchen, and easy of access, but very dreary in the day- 
time because of the huge tree that overshadowed it. 
Hannah did not think of sending them up there, but 
flung a sack over their bare legs as they lay, and did 
not disturb them. 

As the afternoon wore on to evening the hush became 
oppressive. Not a breath, not a sound of birds twitter- 
ing, of fowls fluttering. Only the far-away moo of a 
discontented cow in an outhouse somewhere in the hills 
sounded like a faint trumpet call, and emphasized the 
stillness. The sky seemed nearer than ever now, and 
oppressively near, and all-encompassing. 

As Hannah crossed the yard, just before supper, to 
throw a pail of scrapings into the pig-trough, she heard 
a noise. It was not Hodgson's cow. ... It might have 
been the grinding of one of Miller Farsyde's flour 
wagons on the quartz that sprinkled the road up there 



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222 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

beyond the brow — half-a-mile away. She did not know 
what it was — a very faint rumble. She thought no more 
of it, but as she crossed the courtyard on her way back 
something dropped on to the back of her hand which 
she could have sworn was a rain-drop. . . . ! 

The thought passed. Her country mind again was 
a blank. She gave the boys a shake as she passed in. 
"Come now, wake up ! 'Tis supper time ! " 

The youngest boy stirred and frowned. 

" Is it come ? " he said— "the hole in the wall ? " 

"Whatten hole? Whatten wall? Whatten rubbish 
is the child talking about ? " she said carelessly, brush- 
ing the loose straws off his jacket with strong sideway 
pats, and leading him in to the dining-room where 
supper was spread. Willie, the elder and more prosaic 
of the two, manifested some interest in the items of the 
meal. It was beans and bacon and porridge, too solid 
fare for such a day as this had been. The Vicar had 
finished his sermon, and was sitting in his place, as 
pale as his white tie, but otherwise placable enough. 
The eldest child went round to his own high chair in 
silence, but the youngest crossed the room to his 
mother's side and pulled her by the sleeve. 

" What ails ye, laddie ? " she asked not unkindly. 

" Will you give me a kiss, Mammy ? " he asked shame- 
facedly and in a low voice, lest his brother should hear, 
and taunt him for being a "mammy pet." 

"What nonsense!" Mrs. Cooper said, with all the 
helpless shyness of a hard woman. She stooped down 
and kissed her little appealing son, nevertheless. "Now, 
sit down, and eat your supper quietly. Well, Mr. 
Cooper, how have ye got on with your sermon ? " 

" Badly ! " replied her husband. " I seem tp have such 
a weight on my brain — an oppression ! It is quite 



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THE BAROMETER 223 

dreadful. It is so bad, it really can't last — something 
must happen. Eat your supper, John, and don't stare." 

For the youngest child's eyes were constantly fixed 
on his father, and little questions seemed to be trembling 
on his lips. He said nothing until supper was over, 
when he begged his mother to read to them, in which 
request he was seconded by his elder brother. 

She got the big family Bible and reverently flirted the 
pages. . . . 

"Read about the Israelites and the Plagues of Egypt," 
suggested Willie. 

"Very well," the mother said equably. Her day's 
work was done, she had time now, and was willing to 
please the children in their own way. 

" ' And Moses stretched forth his rod towards the 
heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail ' " 

"I wish He would," murmured the Vicar. 

" * And the fire ran along the ground, and the Lord 
rained hail upon the land of Egypt. . . .' " 

She was going on in her monotonous, uneducated 
voice, when the youngest child suddenly screamed and 
hid his face in the cushions of the sofa. 

"Whisht, whisht! " she called out, by way of sooth- 
ing him. "Why, you silly body, haven't ye heard it 
all before?" 

The child continued to sob. 

His face remained hidden. Sternly his parent ignored 
his hysterical outburst. 

" How old were the children of Israel ? " asked Willie, 
by way of distracting the attention of his elders from 
this bad conduct on his brother's part, which would 
assuredly end in both being sent off to bed. Crying was 
never allowed. "Were they as old as me, or only as 
old as John ? " 



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224 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Mrs. Cooper now gave her mind to the destruction 
of this erroneous impression under which her children 
had been labouring, and when it was done she raised her 
voice, and called " Hannah ! " to the maid, who was to 
be heard moving heavily about in the passage. 

John raised his tear-stained face from the sofa, a 
wild terror in his eyes. Willie clasped his hands to- 
gether, and together they pleaded with an unaccountable 
vehemence. . . . 

"Oh, no, no, Mother; please, Mother — we don't want 
to go to bed. We can't ! We can't ! " both wailed. 

"And what for no?" asked the mother, raising her 
strongly marked black eyebrows. "Why not to bed, to- 
night, same as other nights ? " 

" Because — because — oh, Mother ! because we want 
another story. We want Abram and Isaac," pleaded 
William. It was only an excuse, and the mother 
knew it. 

"One story is quite enough for one evening," she 
answered severely; "and John did not behave particu- 
larly well over that; I won't hear any fond nonsense. 
Now you just trot along both of you ! You are both 
as cross and sleepy as you can be. Bed's the safest 
place for you ! " 

Her rough soothing was of no value. The children's 
faces, as Hannah came in, were blanched with terror. 
John ran up to the kindly servant-maid, and hid his 
face in the folds of her linsey gown. 

"I want to speak to you," he sobbed. 

"Noo, what then, ma honey?" said Hannah good- 
humouredly, stooping, till her smooth head touched his 
touzled one. "Well!" — as she raised her head — "did 
ye ever hear the like? What sets ye asking that? 
Mistress, he wants to know if they mayn't creep in 
aside of father and mother to-night?" 



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THE BAROMETER 225 



"i 



'Please let us, Mother," they murmured, almost 
inaudibly. 

"I never heard anything so fond! " exclaimed Mrs. 
Cooper, laughing grimly. "Be off with ye both quietly, 
now, and let me hear no more nonsense." 

"We did once, Mother!" 

" Once I Yes ! when they were mending the roof of 
your bedroom ; but the roof's safe and sound over your 
heads now, at any rate. Why," she laughed, "why, 
when I give ye a nice big bed to yourselves, should I 
go and cram my own and the master's with two tire- 
some children, to kick me black and blue before morn- 
ing ? What are ye afeared of, I say ? " 

But they would own to nothing, and averted their 
eyes. A little underswell of sobbing, whimpering 
breaths testified to their distress. 

"What's come to the bairns, I wonder?" She was 
puzzled, through her thick mental hide of unsympathy. 
"They're as fractious I It's this unked weather sets us 
all out of our wits." 

"It must break," said her husband, "there's no sense 
in it. We may have rain to-morrow. I forgot to look 
at the glass as I passed in to-night. There may be a 
change soon, nay, there must be. . . . Come here, 
children, and say your prayers, and let's have no more 
crying." 

They all at once realized the hopelessness of it all, 
and came meekly to his knee, Hannah folded her hands 
and looked on approvingly at the two flaxen heads, as 
in their innocent, pretty, piping voices they begged 
blessings on their hardened elders, and murmured deep 
contrition for the sins they had not yet committed. They 
wound up as usual with the prayer — 

" ' Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, 
and by Thy great mercy defend us from all perils and 
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226 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

dangers of this night; for the love of Thine only Son, 
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 9 " 

Sadly they rose and kissed their parents, who had 
so carelessly crossed them in their strong instinctive 
desire, and murmured inaudible good-nights. Then 
Hannah, taking a little submissive hand of each, led 
them out of the room. 

They went past the weather-glass in the hall, whose 
strongly marked signs and signals of change they were 
too young, and Hannah too ignorant, to understand, and 
walked round by half roofless passages to the kitchen. 
Then Hannah, laughingly propelling "mischief in front 
of her," inducted them up the shaky wooden staircase 
that led into the large room where they always slept, 
brooded over by the enormous over-arching elm-tree. 
Its branches tapped the little skylight pane when it was 
windy, but now they hung still like a drooping banner 
in a calm. 

"I do believe it's that ugly, girt tree they're feared 
of ! " Hannah thought to herself. 

During the passage towards their sleeping place they 
said nothing, but the fingers of the younger child closed 
and unclosed round the maid's stout thumb, and the 
touch struck her as very cold. 

"I'd let you both creep in aside o' me," she said, 
"only I'm that fleyed o' the mistress! She'd find us 
out, as sure as my name is Hannah Cawthorne." 

She set down the candle on the chest in the long, low, 
empty loft-room. The chest and the bed were almost 
the only articles of furniture in it. The wooden rafters 
that supported the roof made fanciful bars and arches 
over the white dimity quilt. The bed was large, clean 
and comfortless. 

When the two children had undressed and lain down, 



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THE BAROMETER 227 

Hannah Cawthorne, of a gloomy North Country turn 
of mind that ran continually on omens and predestina- 
tions, could not help thinking how like two corpses laid 
out they looked, lying so straight, their little bodies out- 
lined under the quilt, their eyes wide open and staring 
at the roof. It made her uncomfortable. 

"There's nought to be af eared on," she thought, try- 
ing to bring comfort to herself merely, for the children 
were still, submissive and past all repining now. "It's 
as safe as a church, but all the same. . . . Now shut 
your eyes," she said aloud, "there's good lads, and say 
4 Gentle Jesus ' till ye feel the sleep coming on ye. 
Oh, ye'll sleep fine, trust me. Shall I leave ye the 
light?" 

This was a wild stretch of authority. She might have 
lost her place over it. She was relieved when they shook 
their heads and declined it. 

"See here," she went on, producing an apple from 
her pocket. "See here, ye can munch this atween ye." 

She laid it down on the coverlet, but no little hand 
came forth to take it. 

" Poor bairns, they're sad-like. . . . Eh, she's a hard 
woman, is the mistress ! If they were mine, shouldn't 
I like them to nestle in aside o'me! This room is fair 
lonesome. Naebody could hear them if they were to 
skrike out. ..." 

" What are ye looking at, my honey ? " she asked John 
curiously, for the child's eyes remained obstinately fixed 
on the roof, as if he saw something there. 

"He's looking at the hole in the wall," volunteered 
the eldest boy at last. "He's shiverin'." 

"Hap him up in your arms, ma bonny bairn, that'll 
soon warm him. . . . Now I must be going, lads. . . . 
Good-night to ye both. . . ." 

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228 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Hesitating, reluctant, she took up her candle and made 
a start for the door. 

"I don't half like leaving them," she murmured, as 
she stole out casting a last look at the two children, 
lying clasped, according to her recommendation, in each 
other's arms. Their faces were hidden in each other's 
necks, their sad apprehensive eyes were closed, obedi- 
ently summoning sleep. 

Gently snecking the door, she blundered down the 
rickety staircase, and made her way back into the other, 
safer part of the house. Ignorant, she passed by the 
mysterious oracle hanging in the hall, unable to read or 
understand the plain meaning which its hands now 
bore. 

"Eh, but she's a right hard woman, is the mistress, 
and master follows her in all things. He'd have let the 
poor childer come in aside him, when they begged and 
prayed fit to turn a heart of stone. . . ." 

She did not toss on her hard pallet, but lay stupefied 
in the heavy slumber that was the meed of her arduous 
existence. Upstairs, in the best bedroom, the Reverend 
Matthew Cooper slept off his headache. His wife did 
not drowse, but lay by her husband's side, straight and 
still as she had laid down, congratulating herself on the 
great healing storm that was even now breaking over 
the Vicarage, gloating over its promise of recomfiture 
and peace. ... It thundered and lightened for two 
hours. 

When morning dawned the great drought was over, 
and the air was refreshed. 

Hannah, the maid, rose and went about her duties with 
a light heart, and presently, having started the kitchen 
fire, called the parson and his wife to resume theirs. 

When it was time, she pulled her dirty kitchen apron 



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THE BAROMETER 229 

aside, put the kettle where it could not for the moment 
boil over, and went to call the parson's children. 

She went up the crooked stair and opened the door 
gently, "not to waken them sudden." The first thing 
she saw, before she screamed, was the wide, jagged hole 
on the rafters above the bed where they still lay in each 
other's arms. The lightning that, guided by the tree 
which hung over the roof, had passed through to the 
innocent children and dealt them their unearned and 
undeserved death, had not divided them. They were 
quiet and unchanged in appearance except for some little 
blue marks like shot in the forehead of the one and the 
breast of the other. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 

I 
Wi Tis but a little piece of Childhood thrown away?*— JOHN Ford. 

She wandered about the wards at the Infants' Hos- 
pital, a privileged person, ignored, tolerated, looked on 
askance by the properly caparisoned, properly certifi- 
cated, properly trained nurses. She was not a nurse, 
she was not even a probationer, except by courtesy; 
she was the daughter of the founder of the Hospital, 
Dr. Emeric Favarger. She spent many hours there, 
lounging about, asking irrelevant questions of the nurses 
and the visiting doctors, getting into the way as only 
a privileged person can do. She was no good, she could 
not even amuse a baby, or keep it quiet for a moment 
until expert assistance arrived. She was there, it was 
understood, because she liked it ; because the grey-green 
walls and absence of decoration were soothing to her, 
and the rows of white cots, to the number of thirty, 
each with its frontal brass denoting the name and style 
of its god-parent and pecuniary backer that lined both 
sides of the room. Her own name, Adelaide Favarger, 
figured over one little bed, and she was used to take 
up its puling occupant now and again. She would 
linger, casting her liquid glances at its chance, con- 
stantly varied, occupant lying there, with some at least 
of the creases of ill-nurture and previous ill-usage 
smoothed out and eased by the bands of merciful sleep. 

She was twenty-five years of age, unmarried, mother- 

233 



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234 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

less, the only daughter of Dr. Favarger. He was old, 
and had grown excessively rich, and had found himself 
able long since to retire from the activities of the pro- 
fession. He still had his room in the Hospital, lectured 
there twice a week, and saw foreign doctors, depart- 
mental authorities, philanthropists and other persons 
who were interested in this particular new departure. 
This he had inaugurated himself, hoping to see it lead 
to Eugenical cultivation of the uncounted progeny of 
the struggling, uninstructed masses. At home, in the 
immense wool-gathering house he rented in Portland 
Place, he had a room the door of which was kept always 
closed. Behind this he was understood to be engaged 
in "experiments." He entered it, never from the house, 
but by a door that gave on a mews at the back. As 
people said, anything — all sorts of things — might be 
going on in that house and never be heard of. It was 
known that Dr. Favarger bred and kept there countless 
cats ; he wrote and commented learnedly on their habits 
in the monthlies. He was a man who might have been 
asked out to dinner every night in the year if he had 
chosen to let himself figure in the list of Society's 
possible guests. But that he had always refused to do, 
and his daughter shared his self-imposed solitude. She 
was not the kind of girl whom hostesses asked out alone, 
or at a moment's notice, to fill up a gap. She had no 
cordiality, no entrain, no "go." She was attractive but 
not charming, the image of her father, whose hooked 
beaky nose she had inherited, together with passionate, 
regretful eyes that her dead mother had left her. 

But no restraint was put upon her exercise of hospi- 
tality in Portland Place. She could ask any one she 
liked to dinner and she availed herself constantly of the 
privilege — but the proportion of male guests who put 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 235 

their knees under the old mahogany dining-table and 
drank her father's old port, which was almost famous, 
was far in excess of the female. But Adelaide did not 
object to this proportion. Still, sly, silent with an air 
of biding her time, at eighteen ; by the time she was 
twenty-five, the passion in her eyes was tremendous; 
she glowed in her dark setting, a meagre Circe who 
gathered the ready-made beasts about her, and shook no 
deterrent wand at them. 

These were her evenings, smoke of cigars, fumes of 
liqueurs, conversations of veiled indecency under the 
guise of scientific discussion, which were led by her 
father; the cynical, heartless old man, holding forth 
indifferently, from sheer love of talking, to the audi- 
ences of queer, inferior, second-rate men that his 
daughter provided for him nightly. And for her days, 
they were mostly spent within the four walls of the 
abode of sanitation and physical purity that represented 
the outcome of both their theories of life. Adelaide had 
no sense of humour, but the cruel old man was apt to 
say that his daughter was the only microbe in the 
establishment — that miracle of asepticism. He gave her 
plenty of pocket-money, gibed at her to her friends 
before her face, but allowed her to do exactly as she 
liked, and with no consideration for her extreme youth 
and the life she had to live when he was gone, fared 
contemptuously towards the grave of known finality 
that awaited him. He had done his best for the world 
in the establishment of a higher ideal of infant feeding 
and early physical culture. 

He had done well by his daughter, he had fulfilled his 
duty as he considered it towards her mind and body. 
He had given her the best of educations. She had been 
to school by the sea as a child, as a girl to college. She 



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236 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

had insisted on being highly trained and educated up 
to the nadir of her powers, and had her views cut and 
dried at sixteen. Carefully concentrating herself, with 
feverish intentness on efficiency, she had managed to 
do well in the tripos at Oxford, but her friends said that 
she had been screwed up to the required pitch by her 
imperious vanity. The girls of her year who had come 
out below her in Honours used to laugh when they met 
her afterwards in the street ; for them she was the crank 
who had outstripped them, peering as her habit was, 
under the hoods of perambulators, on her way to lectures 
on Eugenics and Baby-Culture. They had heard all 
about her desire, nay, her fixed determination, to marry 
and worthily contribute to the World-Force, in the usual 
manner. At Somerville Hall, she had made no secret 
of her intention to bear an Eugenical child, or two, 
having first selected its father carefully, from a physio- 
logical point of view. Oh, yes, she had talked of 
nothing else at tea parties and walks, and had bored 
them so that when she left she had made no harvest of 
life-friends. They had tossed their learned young heads, 
and quite expected, some day, to hear of Adelaide 
Favarger, in spite of her big talk, as the feeble hang- 
dog mother, if a mother at all, of one puny infant, be- 
gotten of nerves and hysteria, by the usual self-selecting 
father. That is, if any man chose her, and this, in spite 
of her wealth, they were inclined to doubt. 

She wasn't a girl who appealed to the men that marry. 
They felt that, and they were right. 

For men, looking at Adelaide Favarger with the in- 
stinctive and unconscious cunning of the male, that 
makes in the long run so surely for what Adelaide her- 
self would have called the World Purpose, were likely 
to pass her by, as sexually ineligible for motherhood. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 237 

Socially, too, she did not appear apt to satisfy their own 
particular standards of comfort and pleasure. Though, 
indubitably, Adelaide would be rich, they feared to take 
a wife out of the dreary, ill-managed, ill-cleaned house 
in Portland Place, full of unprobed corners and flights 
of stairs that seemed to drop you into plumbless depths 
of scullerydom and basement. The hall and dining- 
room were full of valuable mahogany furniture whose 
dull unpolished surfaces reflected nothing, the drawing- 
room was spread with rich yellow damask, that draped 
the sofas and chairs, and hung as curtains to mask as 
much scanty light as was willing to filter in through the 
tall windows that no normal housemaid could reach up 
to clean. No one did clean them. The curtains soared 
out of sight into the dusty ceilings and the chance hand, 
essaying to draw them further apart, shook out a dusty 
flavour that nipped the nostrils and was forthwith obliged 
to desist. 

Adelaide's dinners, and she gave a great many of 
them, were ill cooked, scrambling and depressing. But 
the wine, Dr. Favarger's own province, was excellent. 
He himself would have none of it. As soon as the 
sweets were put on, it was the old Doctor's custom to 
rise, to stuff his creased napkin into the middle of his 
plate, and to leave the room without comment. It was 
always the same. He did not as a rule appear again : 
he disliked the kind of man that his daughter was apt 
to invite, and he had no desire to control her in the 
matter* The men were rather sorry to see him go, he 
was lazy, cynical and fascinating. 

There was one of Adelaide's men whom he perhaps 
did not dislike. Yet, although he would not sit out the 
dinner even for him, the only time that Wald Ensor 
dined with Adelaide he stayed until the coffee and 



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238 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

cigarettes were put on. Perhaps it was because he had 
himself introduced his daughter to the amiable young 
man at the Children's Hospital. Ensor came to inquire 
after a child, whom he had kindly been instrumental 
in bringing in. It was dying of malnutrition. Its slum 
mother, stupid, underfed and wretched, but not vile, 
could not nourish it properly even if she would. 

The image of the tall, handsome young fellow with the 
perishing child in his arms had never left Adelaide ; she 
had fallen in love with Wald Ensor, and with Adelaide, 
to fall in love was to ask to dinner. 

Ensor came. He was excessively fascinating to 
Adelaide, because he was so different from her other 
young men and especially from the second-rate Chelsea 
artist whom she had asked to make a fourth, and whom 
she already considered a survival from her old days of 
bad taste. Ensor's manner was perfection. He was 
shyish, grave, intent, and self-contained, talked prettily 
to her father about his hospital and his cats and respect- 
fully to herself about the subjects in which a young lady 
should be interested. Adelaide was not interested, but 
she instinctively forebore to disabuse him. 

She was too young, too reckless, too much unversed 
in strategy, to conceal the trend of her feelings and 
directing, as she did, all her conversation and her eyes 
towards Ensor, she seriously alienated the liking of her 
late friend, ally and limner, Mr. Wallace Marks, R.I.B. 

He bided his time, however, and as long as Dr. 
Favarger presided over his own table, he listened in a 
frankly bored manner which contrasted with Wald 
Ensor's polite attention to talk which he only half- 
approved, coming from the lips of this savage irrespon- 
sible old savant, the indifferent natural guardian of a 
young girl's delicate morals. 

"There is something," the old hook-nosed man was 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 239 

saying, "something to be said for the woman who ill- 
treats her children." 

Adelaide protested conventionally. "Nothing!" she 
said. 

"My daughter," said her father spitefully, without 
looking in her direction, "wishes to impress you with 
the fact of her well-known love for babies. She does 
not, however, really care for them a bit. She has never 
considered these matters scientifically in her life, 
although she's always hanging round the Hospital, and 
hindering my young assistants. If she had a child, 
she'd neglect it. Cruelty — masked by Philanthropy! 
Look for it deep — it's there ! " His nose appeared cold, 
sharp and ferreting. He did not smile. Ensor 
shuddered. 

Adelaide made a wry face and Ensor was sorry for 
her, disproportionately so, for she did not really mind 
being teased by her parent. The old man continued — 

"On the lines I have been mentioning to you, Ensor, 
even child-murder is excusable, obeying, as it may be 
said to do, an almost forgotten animal instinct. A cat, 
say, who by some circumstance or other has been dis- 
turbed before parturition and rendered hysterical " 

"Good Lord, a hysterical cat " ejaculated the 

bounder. 

Dr. Favarger took no notice of him, but continued 
his sentence — 

— "will tear or otherwise destroy the progeny that 
she foresees herself unable to feed or attend to. So 
do unhappy servant girls, faced, in their hour of trial, 
with the problem of the disposal of illegitimate offspring, 
reserve to themselves the right of destroying what their 
instinct tells them they will be unable in the future to 
protect and nourish " 

"Oh, Father," protested Adelaide again and her tone 



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2 4 o TALES OF THE UNEASY 

was sincere. "Think of it! The tender young life, 
the helpless weakling, bone of one's bone, flesh of one's 
flesh. . . . Motherhood is so sacred — it should, I think, 
be subsidized by the State. A capitation fee for every 
child. Then the mother would have the wherewithal to 
nourish herself properly and maternal feeling would do 
the rest." 

Dr. Favarger smiled, a smile without kindness in it. 
It was his daughter's smile. She had that too, as well 
as his nose. 

"Even then, she or you would probably have none 
of these fine feelings at the moment. She has suffered 
physically ; she is irresponsible : mere brutal selfish 
instinct dominates her. And if she desists, if she does 
make an attempt to salve it, she has to watch the hapless 
infant" — he sneered — "through her care, surviving, but 
as a hopeless idiot. ... Of course," he continued, "I 
except cases of mere cruelty, such as baby-farming. If 
a woman kills or ill-treats the child of another, no natural 
feeling except greed of gain can possibly come into play, 
not even vanity " 

" Vanity ? " said Adelaide. 

"Yes, Mother's vanity, a huge non-negligible factor 
in these matters. But in most cases it is not necessary 
to plead it, for nature's broad back may easily take the 
blame. And when a woman of our own class, maybe, is 
brought before the magistrate and fined or imprisoned 
because she has taken a rod to the ugly duckling, or 
systematically ill-treated a weakly, ungracious child to 
the point of extinction, she might plead that she is only 
doing what a cat or any other perfectly normal animal 
does when one of her young is not up to sample, and 
seems obviously degenerate to her keener sense. My 
cat Philippa, for instance " 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 241 

» Adelaide sneered. The bounder fidgeted. Ensor 
preserved his attitude of somewhat strained attention. 

— " Had a fine litter of four the other day. I found one 
of them, to my uninstructed eye, as healthy as the others, 
on the cold stone floor for three successive mornings 
before it died. She had thrown it out of the nest, she 
had refused to feed it, she had just weeded it out. Why ? 
It was unfit to live. And if you study these trials that 
come up every now and then, and observe carefully the 
characteristics of the little victims as described by the 
officers of the S.P.C.C., you will see that in most cases 
these brutalized children are slow, unprepossessing, 
unpleasant and sometimes revolting in their habits. 
They work up through the first few years of infancy, 
unpetted, neglected, marked down to develop all the 
successive stages of degeneracy. They are obviously 
better dead. No pretty, healthy, fetching child — a child 
like the egregious infant in Bubbles, say, — ever appears 
in court on such a plea. There Mother's vanity comes 
in. . . ." 

He would have continued, but Adelaide, whom this 
conversation neither pleased nor interested, rose. The 
bounder heaved an audible sigh of relief. Ensor, though 
he had been interested, even a little charmed by the 
old man's manner, could not help deploring that this 
extremely technical and advanced conversation had not 
postdated the young girl's departure. 

Old Dr. Favarger left the room with Adelaide. He 
said to her in the hall, before he hobbled away to his 
own study and sleeping apartment on the ground floor — 

"You have picked up a gentleman for once." 

She walked on as if he had not spoken. She always 
made a point of not answering her father when he girded 
at her. His approval of Ensor, though not unpleasing, 



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242 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

was absolutely immaterial to her. She loved him, she 
meant to have him, through the door of marriage or no. 
She went upstairs to the drawing-room to await the two 
men, and flung herself down on the great yellow sofa 
with the black cushions, too nervous even to smoke. 
She was convinced, albeit for the twentieth time, that 
she had found the Eugenical father at last. 

• •••••• 

Wald Ensor, the gentleman according to Dr. Favar- 
ger's acceptance, left sitting after an atrocious dinner, 
with a man who could not possibly fulfil the Doctor's 
conditions, felt extremely uncomfortable. His annoy- 
ance grew as his messmate tended to grow familiar in 
conversation. A wretched artist from Chelsea, self- 
styled modern, with white hair and a dyed moustache, 
to whom the host had not vouchsafed a word all dinner ! 
The fine old man had been annoyed by his cockney 
accent, presumably. He had talked, although she did 
not listen, psychology with Adelaide, and his pert 
underbred voice had broken in all the while through 
Dr. Favarger's cultivated tones. Now that the host and 
hostess were gone, this bounder ventured to turn the 
analytical method on to his hostess herself, and Ensor 
did not know how to stop him. He fidgeted about on 
his Spanish leather covered chair, and made various 
efforts to do so, but in vain. 

"Nice girl, very," the creature went on. "With a face 
like an old master — one of those Primitives, don't you 
know ? Lots of drawing ^bout. Pity she's so morbid." 

Wald Ensor made a gesture of negation. 

"Oh, yes, she is. Talks of nothing but Eugenics and 
so on. Thinks of nothing but the other thing. . . . 
It's only a mask, with these women you know, all that 
rot about child-bearing and being subsidized by the 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 243 

State and so on. She's an erotomaniac, that's what she 
is — sits about on yellow sofas and asks men to love her. 
They do that fast enough, she's very good fun — but 
they don't marry her. ... Do you know Gertrude? 
Do you know why they put up with her — she's the cook 
— why the dinners here are so confoundedly bad ? " — 

"No, I don't, and " Ensor expostulated. His 

blood boiled, he didn't think he could stand it any 
longer, he wanted to throw his glass in the fellow's 
face. He rose. ... 

The other man, nothing abashed, although their con- 
versation had hardly lasted the canonical few minutes, 
rose too, saying amiably, "So 1 Let's join our hostess." 

He continued amiably as they passed out — 

"Cook's bad, but can't be parted with, don't you 
know? She's up to games of her own, is the fair 
Gertrude. They found a baby she'd just had in a 
dressing-table drawer, so Adelaide told me while she 
was sitting. Time for confidences, eh ? Seen my por- 
trait of her ? In the New " 

They were half-way upstairs by this time. The artist 
opened the drawing-room door and disclosed Adelaide 
sitting, as he had predicted, on a yellow satin sofa, with 
her head resting on black satin cushions. There was 
room for one man beside her. The bounder slipped 
easily and voluptuously into that place, and Ensor with 
a spasm of jealous disgust, took an early opportunity 
of making his adieux, and left them. 

He never dined in the house again. He could not 
bring himself to risk meeting men of that stamp. 

Yet he pitied her. He admired her. Her great dis- 
contented eyes haunted him. He felt as if a white 
plaining woman's hand was outstretched to him from 
r 2 



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244 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

out of a weltering sea of bounderism. Adelaide, a lady, 
could not really like that sort of man ? No, for she liked 
him. She wrote continually begging him to accept her 
hospitality — hospitality of all kinds. She began to vary 
skilfully the form of her invitations, but he still refused 
all invitations to meals at her house. 

At last she suggested that if he could not stand her 
cook he should take her out to dine at "some low pot 
house," so she phrased it. He laughed. For he knew 
that if he should succumb to her blandishments, he 
would certainly take her to a decent fairly respectable 
restaurant : he would not pander to her taste for 
Bohemianism, but save her from herself and her friends. 

As he thought it over after each fresh invitation, a 
taste for this form of social humanitarianism grew on 
him. He began to fancy the idea of rescuing this really 
nice girl and taking her to decent places and showing 
her how a decent man would behave. The girl was 
motherless, her father did not pretend to look after her. 
She had a fine generous character, was large in her 
ideas, she gave freely, she was kind to her own sex, and 
would never go back on any one. The disreputable 
cook, now, — he was sure that in keeping her on, poor 
Miss Favarger was really undertaking a work of charity. 
The woman had obviously had what is called a mis- 
fortune, she had possibly gone through what is also 
called a tragedy. Adelaide was obviously not the sort 
of person who would ever cast a human being out of 
doors, under any circumstances whatever, especially a 
woman in the condition in which the cook had presum- 
ably found herself. Lazy, preoccupied, indifferent, she 
made no excuse for her shameful tolerance, and even 
condescended to discuss the details of it with such worms 
as Ensor's fellow guest of a few weeks ago. That was 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 245 

merely an error of taste, the result of her unmothered, 
unchaperoned state. She was at bottom a really well- 
bred woman. Ensor, a rover, a man who had knocked 
about the world and yet preserved his vast shyness and 
a modicum of innocence, thought he saw clearly that the 
time and place were out of joint with Adelaide. Her 
morals were mediaeval, with no present parallel except 
perhaps one that should be found in the milieu of the 
South Sea Islands. 

So he came to invite her to dine with him at Prince's 
and even Kettner's ; she had tea with him on the slopes 
in Kensington Gardens ; they walked together in Hyde 
Park on Sundays, Adelaide protesting vehemently that 
she hated dressing up and posing as one of the smart 
set. In vain Ensor assured her that to mingle casually 
with that select denomination at Church Parade, was 
not to be within a hundred miles of being "of " it : that 
to dine at Kettner's with a man alone was sufficiently 
unconventional. Adelaide continued to protest, to beg 
him to take her to his flat, and to discuss sex questions 
in a loud voice over restaurant dinner tables. She called 
it Eugenics. 

Ensor did not really enjoy these discussions, the 
young woman, sitting there, her elbows on the table, 
her hands propping her hard chin, her burning eyes 
fixed on him made it almost impossible for him to eat 
a solid British dinner, and keep his British countenance 
at the same time. 

He could stand any amount of talk of this kind from 
platforms, or on the stage with the footlights between 
him and the exponents of the new Feeling, the New 
World Movement, the new Morality; here, under the 
shaded red lights, with discreet foreign waiters gliding 
about the chance commensals; the face to face discus- 



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246 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

sion of such topics outraged his simple sensitiveness 
and ordinary sense of decency. The only thing that at 
all saved the situation was the girl's astonishing absence 
of self-consciousness. She talked like a boy — a clever, 
morbid, self-conscious lad just home from college, her 
sedulous use of slang helped the impression. Yet all 
the while her eyes belied her and occasionally her voice. 
Now and then an outrageous note of sex bitterness 
pierced through her level lazy accents and brought their 
talk home with a rush from the plane of impersonality. 
With Adelaide it was when her eyes ceased to look 
passionate and eager but became sombre and heavy, 
instead : it was when her sharp grating voice grew soft 
and mellow and trailing that Ensor feared her most, and 
such moments were growing more and more frequent as 
their meetings went on. He stood to his guns, how- 
ever, he was not one to throw even a graceless woman 
over. 

Had he not been the most retiring, most modest of 
men he would have realized that Adelaide Favarger was 
in love with him. He would have disliked — he would 
have refused to realize it, for it would h|ive forced him 
to formulate his own feeling for her, and that was a 
queer mixture of sensual pity, and revolted fascination. 
There were times when he thought he fully grasped what 
she wanted of him and was glad of her assumption that 
his refusal to dine with her in Portland Place represented 
merely a protest against the inefficiency of her cook. 
This theory, which at all times and all seasons she put 
before him, and which she had freely proffered as an 
explanation of his "snubbing" of her, was a conveni- 
ence to him, since it effectually masked his reluctance 
to be the father of her eugenical child. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 247 

Like her other men friends, Ensor always saw Adelaide 
Favarger home after their evenings together. Unlike 
the others, however, he always left her punctiliously on 
the doorstep, as soon as her front door answered to her 
key and the cavernous gulf of the hall swallowed her 
up. No Bianca Capello business for him ! She used to 
tease him about this, she used the romantic illustration, 
with a point of bitterness. She had now accepted the 
situation and no longer even asked him to come in. 
Her " Good-nights " were a miracle of sour brevity and 
conciseness. 

One night in July they had been to the Exhibition 
together and had sat late listening to the band playing 
"Tristan." The out-door performance represented a pale 
vapid reflection of the original orchestral heat and pas- 
sion merely, but out there in the murky shadow-thridden 
radiance, in the dust-fumed air, it was effective. Adelaide 
had talked less than usual. The summer nights that 
year were long and clear. When rather late, they 
returned to it, satiate of romance, great, wide Portland 
Place seemed to sleep lonely under a Norwegian mid- 
night. Nothing so cold even as a moonbeam shone on 
its raddled stones and stern house fronts, except where 
a tree in the garden next to Adelaide's house hung over 
her steps on one side and lent it some mystery. There 
was a big party higher up the street and some stationary 
taxicabs stood waiting in the middle of the roadway, 
black, vague, a file of indistinguishable shapes, whence 
the figure of a man now and then disengaged himself, 
did something to his vehicle and was absorbed into the 
mass again. Adelaide had insisted on Ensor's dismiss- 
ing their own cab at Oxford Circus, and together they 
walked across the broad stone-paved expanse. The girl 
held her exiguous skirts tightly round her thin, airily 



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248 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

poised legs. She knew they were fine, she knew she 
had a beautiful figure. 

She gained the broad flat step in front of her door 
and turned a little sideways to the man who stood wait- 
ing for her to effect her entry and bid her a hasty good- 
bye as usual. He was a little bemused by "Tristan"; 
he was looking dreamily back across the street they had 
just traversed, his head full of carefully conceived, 
adroitly moving harmonies. . . . 

"Come in and have a drink ? " Adelaide said carelessly, 
but her voice was rough and throaty. 

The demand appeared to startle him. He thought he 
had cured her of £11 that. Her request was out of all 
order and he did not reply at once. . . . 

She faced him but did not meet his eyes. . . . 

"Why won't you?" she asked peevishly. "Even if 
you won't dine? What have I done? Why am I 
doomed? Cursed. . . ." 

"My dear Miss Favarger ! ..." 

"Miss Favarger be blowed!" She spoke like a 
school-girl. She caught, as a monkey does, at the lapel 
of his coat — fumbled at it. . . . 

"For God's sake," she said, "don't insult me so! 
Come in for a moment ! " 



II 

Wald Ensor came back to his flat in Ebury Street 
some time in the early piping dawn and found a cable- 
gram lying in his letter-box. It told him of the sudden 
death of a distant but beloved relation, out in California, 
a man in whose business he had a concern. A day or 
two later he had arranged his affairs and sailed for the 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 249 

other side. He had found time before he left to forward 
a bulk)r package to Miss Adelaide Favarger, containing 
the skin of a leopard which he had shot himself, and of 
which he had spoken to Adelaide. It went with her, 
somehow, and she had looked flattered when he said so. 
He had now a very friendly feeling towards her, she 
seemed to him, on the whole, since their mutual experi- 
ence, to be a saner, worthier member of the community 
than before. 

He did not fancy, when he stepped off this hemisphere, 
that he was leaving Europe for a very long time. But 
it was so. He married out in California. He conceived 
it to be out of pity in some sort, an idea of giving a girl, 
much buffeted by fortune, a home. But as a matter of 
fact Adelaide had awakened the zest of the eternal femin- 
ine in a man who had imagined himself to be a confirmed 
bachelor. The girl was saved, domesticated, but Wald 
Ensor's attempts at civism and paternity were not 
blessed in the usual way. After they had been married 
five years his wife died in giving birth to a child, which 
died too. Then he drifted, bereft of his casual impetus 
towards a settled life. His cousin died, leaving him 
fairly well off. He started several adventures in the 
world of business, nearly all of which failed, for he had 
not what is called la main heureuse. 

With an orange grove that did not pay, left on his 
hands, ^nd nothing else to speak of, he came back to 
Europe. Temporarily crippled in his resources, he 
decided to lie low till matters should have righted them- 
selves. He was too proud to take his place in society, 
and go out while his only dress suit was shiny at the 
knees. He avoided London. He did, however, call in 
Portland Place and found new inmates established there, 
and was told that old Dr. Favarger was dead and Miss 



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250 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Favarger gone, no one knew where, and that she had 
taken the cook with her. 

It was in Yorkshire on a market-day, in Beverley, that 
he met Adelaide again. 

At first sight she seemed very little altered, only he 
realized that he had always imagined that she was taller. 
She was walking with her old staccato step that sug- 
gested some congenital weakness, such as a slightly 
stiffened spine, on the rough cobbled stones of the 
market, about and among the pens and improvised folds 
that prisoned lowing cows and calves and indifferent, 
sullen bulls. She was not alone. Her companion was a 
Sg b eautiful girl qf sp oilt fjff ppn T a whole head taller than 
herself. Perhaps that was why he thought her shrunken ? 
There was about her a slight countrified air, which 
differed greatly from the exaggerated, rather meretricious 
style in which the old Adelaide had been used to make 
her points, and strive to enhance her own peculiar charm. 

The two women were absorbed. They were leaning 
on the well-worn wooden rail, which served to pen in 
the unruly cattle, and watched with interest and attention 
the movements of a magnificent young bull, which had 
as nearly as possible succeeded in wrenching his neck 
free from the clumsy headstall that fixed him to the post. 
His discontented, inflamed eyes, his stubby, determined 
shoulder, the dull, passionate tntentness on freedom 
manifested by his attitude seemed to fascinate^he elder 
woman, who was expatiating on his beauties to the seem- 
ingly less interested spectator beside her. . . . 

"Nice beast, isn't he, Phillis?" she murmured. 

"Yes, but he'll get his head out in about a minute ! " 
the child said nervously. 

"Then it will be Hell let loose," replied the elder 
woman, evidencing a - sort of savage enjoyment in the 



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THE TIGER-SKIN ^51 

spectacle of the younger one's timidity. She continued, 
gloating, "He'd have the whole place cleared in no time. 
Shall we stay and see the racket ? " 

Her hand stole towards the frayed rope. . . . 

"No, don't undo it, Addie. Oh, I do believe you're 
going to ! Do let's go home," the child pleaded pet- 
tishly. "And Mary must be tired and cold, waiting in 
the car all this time." 

"Oh, damn Mary ! " said Adelaide. "Who cares for 
Mary?" 

"But I'm tired and cqW too." 

"You are? Come along then, my precious — a.t once." 

She turned and faced Wald Ensor. The long last 
look with which she had enveloped the splendid, sullen, 
restless animal had not left her humid eyes. 

Quickly she recognized him, and righted herself. She 
put up to her eyes, with a reminiscence of her town 
manner, a pince-nez that hung round her neck by a chain 
of antique workmanship, and said in a hard voice — 

"Is that you?" 

Then a marked hesitation seemed to overcome her. 
She raised her arm that hung languidly down at her side, 
as if to ward off a blow. A little collection of parcels 
she was holding together by a string fell to the ground. 
The child very properly bent to pick them up. Ensor 
properly, too, was about to forestall her, but a gesture 
from Actelaide seemed to him to be intended to prevent 
and forbid him doing so. There was an awkward 
pause. . . . 

Then Adelaide, indicating with her pince-nez the 
stooping figure of the beautiful young girl, and looking 
carefully away, pronounced quickly — 

"Wald, my daughter, Phillis." 

" How do you do ? " said Wald Ensor, formally, when, 



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252 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

her cheeks reddened with stooping, the child resumed 
her upright position. NShe was concerned because one of 
the parcels was missing. Perhaps it had rolled under 
the feet of the bull ? . . . v 

"Never mind," said her mother fondly. There was a 
loving pride in her voice. None of the lowing cows," 
untethered, but morally fast anchored to the posts where 
their calves were firmly bounden, tHeir mother-love taken 
into strict consideration by the cunning drover, who 
relied on it more surely than on any rope that was ever 
spun of hemp, could boast a tenderer, more maternal 
solicitude. Ensor was touched. So the restless, theoretic 
Adelaide was happy and settled at last, her hopes ful- 
filled, her theories carried out. 

Phillis, in her bucolic completeness and obvious ster- 
ling health, was a maternal production to be proud of. 
She had golden hair, blue eyes and a complexion of 
roses and again roses. There were hardly any lilies, and 
although she was lovely at fifteen, the chances were that 
she would be raddled at fifty. Ensor noticed that the 
bare hand that clutched the wooden rail was, unlike her 
mother's, large and heavy. She probably had feet to 
correspond. The dark, bushy eyebrows, which struck a 
note of savagery in the simple, placidly sensuous counte- 
nance, suggested one coarse progenitor ; Adelaide's was 
an excessively refined type. He surmised that she had 
in effect succeeded in capturing something in the nature 
of a prize-fighter for a mate. Such, she had declared, 
was her ambition to do in the old days at any rate, some- 
thing rustic, fair and Saxon. ... 

Adelaide released her underlip, which she had drawn 
in and had bitten till it bled, and spoke quickly, with a 
graceless, oppressive cordiality that reminded Ensor, at 
that moment, of the first time she had invited him to 
dinner in Portland Place. In her access of nervous ex- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 253 

citement, as of one constantly expecting to be refused, 
she was exactly the same, uncertain, deprecating, but 
peremptory. 

" Where are you staying, Wald ? At the Antelope ? 
Here on business? Well, you can do it from High 
Walls. We'll motor you in every day. Let us go and 
get your things out of the Antelope. The car's there — 
waiting for us " 

" Thank you — I hardly think I " so Ensor was 

saying at intervals, and continued to say. He felt 
annoyed, hustled, overborne by all the methods of an 
aggressive, overweening personality. Adelaide's love 
of domineering had once been modified by youthful 
languor; now her masterfulness was reinforced by 
physical fitness. She had grown out of the delicacy of 
the young girl, and was well, a woman to count with. 

He thought of this as he walked behind her and Phillis 
through the thronging market-place. She talked to him 
over her shoulder, hardly listening to his objections. 
They threaded the crowd. Fusty interested groups were 
collected round this or that shrewd cheap Jack. He 
extolled, in the clearings they willingly made for him, 
now yards of tawdry lace, now pieces of coarse netting 
warranted never to tear, now rough crockery warranted 
never to break. And Ensor could hardly hear Adelaide's 
unmodulated voice, through the clatter of hoofs on the 
stone causeways as the clumsy, puzzled animals were 
run along them at a gallop by sweating, panting stable- 
boys, anxious to exhibit their paces to intending pur- 
chasers. Adelaide would stop dead every now and then 
and become absorbed in the contemplation of melan- 
choly stallions with straw-plaited tails, which stood, 
their shiny black hocks turned outward, all adown the 
smooth bits of stone flagging intersecting the rough 
cobbles. 



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254 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

Ensor, to call her attention to his protests, punctuated 

his remarks at intervals with, "My dear Mrs. " She 

took no notice, and if she heard, did not care to supply 
the name. Now and again Phillis would turn and smile, 
a sweet irresponsible smile, at him and sketch an inviting 
gesture. Ensor liked all children, and especially girls of 
that age, and after one of these little demonstrations fol- 
lowed with less travail of the spirit and fewer protests. 
He rather wanted, too, to see the Mary "be-damned" 
who was said to be waiting, cold, tired, and neglected 
in the car. 

They had reached the outer fringe of booths, the 
raucous voices of cheap Jacks and the heartrending 
moos of the cows faded out of hearing, and the broad 
street in front of the Antelope Inn, before whose open 
yard door many conveyances stood, lay before him. He 
crossed the road and was now faced with the immediate 
problem of acceptance or refusal of Adelaide's invitation. 

There was another child in the motor, hunched up and 
cowering among the rolling swathes of the leather motor 
hood pushed back. She was obviously cold and tired of 
waiting. She seemed about ten years old. Her dull 
eyes fixed themselves on him stupidly, wearily, with a 
kind of painful animal interest. . . . She did not take 
them off him. Her white, wide, flat face did not light 
up in the least when Adelaide approached, and in reply 
to Ensor's tacit inquiry, said briefly — 

"No, not mine. The cook's. You remember Gertrude 
— the cook that couldn't cook? Ha! ha! Didn't you 
worry me about it ? I have Mary here for her health, 
and I leave her in the car because she's afraid of cows. 
Now, Phillis, be quick, go and get the things at Storr's, 
and come back. It's a fairly long run home, Wald. . . ." 
She busied herself with some rugs. . . . 

Phillis departed, saying in a child's flirtatious way as 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 255 

she obeyed her mother's request, "Now mind you come," 
while Ensor slavishly entered the hotel, sought his 
room and gathered up his belongings. The other child 
seemed to him to have seconded the invitation too, in 
her own dreamy, spiritless way. It touched him. He 
fancied he might cheer her up a bit if he could once get 
her to take to him and gain her confidence. Children 
liked him. 

When he came out of the hotel again Phillis and the 
other child were safely stowed away in the back of the 
car under one rug, pressed up against each other to 
keep warm. They seemed to get on very well together, 
Ensor was glad to see. 

Adelaide invited her guest to take his seat in front 
beside her, and they started. 

• ••«••• 

Adelaide drove in a careless, slapdash way which sug- 
gested the hand of little practice. She took risks, she 
showed ignorance of some fundamental rules of safety. 
This, however, did not disconcert Ensor at all, he had 
plenty of physical courage. Full tilt they ran along dull 
lanes and roads, blackish under foot, hedge-bordered in 
a sullen craven green. The Plain of York in all its 
mediocre dreariness unrolled itself before them. Ade- 
laide, from between her pursed lips, made no attempt to 
point out landmarks or objects of interest. There were 
no interesting features to point out. Dull bryony shoots 
and clematis tendrils were spread over the hedges, like a 
dusty net coverlet on a lodging-house bed, neutral-tinted 
nettles carpeted them at the foot, and at due intervals in 
their extent, clean, neatly-made gates shut off the entry 
into fields each one like the other. The same kind of 
stupid, spiritless bird rose up now and again, and 
lighted on the tedious brown furrow that hid the one 
behind it. Mean clumps of trees that veiled no possible 



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256 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

trysting-place, bordered the road or looked over it here 
and there. Ensor heard the little girls behind him 
whispering and chuckling in the well of the carriage 
where they had declined in laughing avoidance of the 
cold wind that blew steadily over the plain. At least he 
heard Phillis's voice and took Mary's for granted. The 
two seemed to be very good friends. 

And then Adelaide began to talk to him in her wire- 
drawn inartistic tones which suggested to Ensor some- 
thing like a rope, lashing, being trailed along a gravel 
walk, for he longed to bid her lift it, to try to get 
taut now and then. The crude passion that smouldered 
in her eyes, only lent an edge to her voice. It always 
did. When his mind dwelt on the changes in her, he 
could think of no feature that had altered much ip twelve 
r*>j{£g£g, except her mouth which, from having been as 
nearly as possible straight, had now lost all suggestion 
of curve, and opening generally in raspishness, closed 
always in a helpless peevishness. Her face reminded 
him of the matronly yet at the same time old-maidish 
faces of those mentally starved, materially satisfied 
women of the Renaissance he had seen in pictures and 
reproductions. It was the same drawing over the cheeks, 
the same anxious slope of the flesh away from the con- 
sumptive peaks and hollows of the bones. Her nervous 
little hands, clawlike, handled the wheel with ill-regulated 
vigour and obstfnate determination to excel. Her vanity 
amused Ensor, and since it made so decidedly for effici- 
ency, commended itself to him. He liked women to 
show grit, and did not on the whole object to be managed 
by any person exhibiting marked competency. 

As he reckoned, she had to give most of her real 
attention to the driving of the car. Her vanity stimu- 
lated her to attempt to pay off her guest with a conversa- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 257 

tion composed of ideas long since formulated by herself 
or others. 

" Isn't it a grim country ? " she said cheerfully. "They 
say that there are more heirs and heiresses of solitary 
habit and tottering reason to the square inch here than 
in any other county in England. You see," she knitted 
her brows, " these old feudal people have all along paid 
no attention to physiological rules ; they have chosen to 
intermarry so fearfully." 

"Your old preoccupation, eh!" said Ensor, smiling. 

"Don't sneer, Wald. We met and took to each other 
on that ground, you remember, and I am keener on it 
than ever. I hate anything of a misbegotten or deformed 
nature like death or sin, which indeed it is." She looked 
at him keenly. "Do you know if I was not a Christian 
woman I should find myself beating Mary here within 
an inch of her life ? " 

Ensor made a sound indicating his wish and his con- 
viction that it were proper that she should lower her 
voice. Adelaide accepted the criticism and to some 
extent heeded its remonstrance, in the next few words 
she said. 

"But as she's poor faithful old Gertrude's unique 
scion I stay my hand, and give her instead Parrish's 
Food." 

"It's very good of you," Ensor murmured, oppressed. 
He remembered the baby in the chest of drawers, and, 
besides, he felt those big helpless opaque-seeming eyes 
of the child in the car behind, plumb in the middle of 
his back. . . . 

"Dead against my own theories too," Adelaide went 
on. "That sort of distinct evidence of a parent's physio- 
logical failure ought to be stamped out at birth." 

"Perhaps," said Ensor slowly and strainedly. "Per- 



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258 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

haps she is going to be a poet ? I fancy Keats had those 
beautiful suffering eyes." 

" Eyes of a sick monkey, pah ! " ejaculated Adelaide, 
brutally, and as loudly as she had ever spoken before. 
"Let us not think of her. Tell me all about yourself." 

Wald Ensor obeyed and gave her an account of his 
doings during the last twelve years. As he talked in 
the even, rather tame manner which in him was accent- 
uated, not diminished, by deep feeling, he was conscious 
all the time of a duel waged within him by two opposing 
but strong moods. 

One side of him longed to lay his hand on Adelaide's 
and get her to stop the car, and allow him to step out of 
the range of her puissant personality, which alarmed 
while it interested him. The other side, the explorer- 
adventurer side, divorced from her image, wanted to 
stay and see it through, and have another look at the 
two youthful beings for whom Adelaide was making 
herself responsible, more especially the cook's ailing 
child. One long, attenuated, but distinct thread of pas- 
sionate feeling linked him to her. . . . He had felt like 
that towards a monkey from a Jropical island on the ship 
that the captain was bringing home to colder climes, and 
which resented it in sadness and melancholy. 

With regard to adventure, he could not help wonder- 
ing if when they reached a place called High Walls, 
where Adelaide said she lived, a fond husband would 
come to the portal, and welcome his wife and the stranger 
she had chosen to bring home. For Adelaide had volun- 
teered no information about herself on that head, and he 
was too shy, or too apprehensive of difficulties to ask 
for any. He only gathered that she was well off and had 
bought High Walls herself, for Dr. Favarger had left 
his only daughter everything. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 259 

Ensor expected, he knew not why, that the car would 
turn in at some majestic drive, bordered by fine old trees. 
He was the more surprised when after going for half-a- 
mile or so along a bit of road bordered by hedges on 
one side, and a high brick wall on the other, overhung 
by heavy elm-trees, Adelaide stopped the car opposite a 
small sunk door in this very wall. 

"I live here," she said. "Wald, will you ring?" 

Rooks cawed from their nests in the clumps of high 
trees that seemed to fill all the enclosure, and a dog 
barked, evidently hearing the noise of the car and anxious 
to welcome its mistress. Ensor, as he stood in the road- 
way after having pulled the long iron handle of the bell, 
had the sense of being at the postern gate of some 
embattled fortress standing tall and grimly self-contained 
in the gloomy plateau of the Wolds. 

Time passed. No one came to the door, the dog inside 
barked fitfully. Adelaide's voice sounded unreal in the 
great spaces. . . . Yet she was talking as people talk 
in cities. 

" Nice old place ! " she was saying jauntily. " I bought 
it, it went so well with my own peculiar mentality. It 
belonged to one of the crocky-minded noblemen I told 
you of ; he came to need only one room — somewhere else 
and padded — so I got it cheap, freehold and all. It takes 
delightfully few servants to keep it up, and that's what I 
like. I hate servants spying. What are mine about. 
. . . Hollo!" 

She stood up in the car and called out. Her voice was 
not good. At last, a shuffling old manservant appeared, 
and stood holding the door, not attempting to make him- 
self useful in any way. It was Ensor who helped Ade- 
laide out. Then he turned to the two children. . . « 
Phillis had already leaped out. Ensor looked keenly at 

S2 



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260 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the other child, sitting or rather crouching in the wide 
seat. Their eyes met for a moment. Then Adelaide 
seemed to intercept them. 

"Mary, stop in the car! . . . No, she may as well 
come round with us," she said fussily. 

The man got in and took the vehicle off somewhere, 
and piled with motor-rugs, Ensor stumbled after Ade- 
laide and the two children. A narrow path, flagged 
with stones, not a carriage drive, led up the very short 
way to the house. On the steps an ugly puppy rushed 
at them, and covered Phillis with damp paw-marks. 
The child tried to abash and quieten it, in vain. Ade- 
laide in her unnatural, would-be forcible tones, called it 
off, and bade it come to her. The dog obeyed, but in 
Ensor's opinion, without enthusiasm. 

Adelaide seemed to think differently. "You see," 
she said. "He loves the hand that chastens him. I 
do the chastening. I have to, all these people are so 
tender-hearted, except Gertrude — she has good strong 
hands." 

" I do hate to hear it howling, Addie," remarked Phillis. 

"All young things," said her mother, gravely, "need 
to go through a period of misery and due correction 
before they are fitted for social purposes. And this is a 
good dog, or you bet I shouldn't keep him or trouble 
about him at all. I hate mongrels, human or otherwise, 
don't you, Wald?" . . . 

Her eyes hardened, embittered in expression, fell on 
the puny child, who held an immense rug that trailed 
on the ground beside her. She was evidently too shy 
or helpless to put it down or act at all until an order was 
expressly given her. Ensor took the rug from her. She 
did not look up. He began to think this instance of 
Adelaide's philanthropic kindness was half-witted. . . . 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 261 

"Go in, Mary," said Adelaide sharply. "Don't stand 
fiddling there ! " 

• •••••• 

Some one did thrash the puppy next day, for Ensor 
heard it howling loudly beneath his bedroom window. 
Its cry was for all the world like that of a child that was 
being beaten. He could not rest in bed through the 
noise, though he knew well enough that dogs must be 
trained. He rose and employed the hour or so thus 
gained on the day to examine carefully the position of 
the room he was in, its means of exit, etc., in the style of 
all well-seasoned travellers. He then put on his hat 
and went out by a back entrance, half stumbling over 
and apologizing to a small child in a cotton frock who 
was scrubbing the steps of it. He examined the shape 
of the house, the extent of the garden, and counted the 
number of tall elm-trees that surrounded it, and were in 
their turn circumscribed by the high, dull brick wall that 
gave Adelaide's house its name. 

High Walls was a composite building, finished in late 
Georgian period, but including portions dating from 
almost every period after Elizabeth. The Elizabethan 
part was more or less built up in the interior. A Georgian 
architect of the worst years had carefully enclosed and 
hidden it away, and faced all with a frontage that 
offended every canon of art and taste and depressed every 
eye as well. The high brick wall, Ensor fancied, repre- 
sented a still more recent addition, for the hideous expen- 
sive portal and colonnade of the facade which had been 
evidently designed to dazzle the countryside, was dwarfed 
and crushed out of all proportion by the encroaching 
circumference which ate up both air and space, and gave 
the house the air of an asylum or a prison. 

His voyage of , discovery ended, he went quietly in by 



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262 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the front door in the middle of the colonnade, and found 
himself in a shiny-floored hall, carpeted here and there 
with wild beast skins, among which he recognized his 
own handsome present to Miss Adelaide Favarger. One 
corner of the hall, rendered rather dark in daylight by 
the pillars of the colonnade, was palisaded off with old 
German screens, or arm-chairs that successfully fended 
off draughts from the front door, and permitted it to be 
used as a lounge and smoking-room. 

It was panelled with oak and furnished in the old- 
fashioned regulation country-house style in dark browns 
and yellows. Several heavy antlered heads of deer hung 
on the walls. Their sad, glassy eyes leered down pen- 
sively. He noticed, as he went round, pince-nez in hand, 
that there were some very good engravings. But they 
all embodied the usual gloating cruelties of the sports- 
man. There was a print of the fighting deer of Landseer 
with antlers interlocked till death, another of the rabbit 
in the trap, and one of the stag pulled down by its yelping 
enemies. All these famous works of art were repugnant 
to Ensor. He was, if he thought about it, inclined to 
be anti-vivisectionist. 

On the broad hearth, although it was July, charred 
logs rested on the iron dogs and fell slowly away into a 
bed of soft grey ash, the reduced ghosts of themselves. 
There was a growing heap of detritus that was never 
buried or cleared away. The gnawing flame lurked there 
somewhere at its heart, but gave no warmth, and the 
man, used to Californian summers, felt chilly and longed 
to stir the logs, though it was summer, into some sem- 
blance of wintry activity. 

He knew how to behave, however, and taking up an 
out-of-date local paper that was lying about, he sat 
down with a patient eye on the. main staircase which he 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 263 

expected his hostess to presently descend. The paper 
was dull to the uninitiated in local gossip, and he 
dropped it and began to go over again in his mind the 
last words that Adelaide had said to him as she ascended 
that very staircase last night. One small, finely-shaped 
foot was on the stair. With her small housekeeping 
letter-bag in one hand — the bag he had never seen her 
without since they came to High Walls — she had held 
out to him the other hand, saying gravely, without 
suspicion of vulgar archness — 

"Good-night. Sleep well. I shan't." 

He had said nothing, disconcerted, but had let her go. 
He was outraged, not so much by her words, as by the 
look with which she had punctuated them. It made him 
remember, with an intense, shy, conscious memory, the 
last time he had seen her eyes as she had turned to him 
on the gas-lit doorstep — the eyes of a sick monkey — she 
had given him the phrase herself — the yellow sofa in 
its corner at Portland Place — the wide gleaming door- 
step again, when placated, reproachless, seeking not to 
bind him, she had let him out into the dawn. 

He had begun by admiring her for her fine non-depre- 
catory attitude, her bold reliance on the social and moral 
efficacy of her own standards and principles. She denied 
nothing, deprecated nothing, dropped nothing. The 
yellow sofa was there, in the hall, he had recognized it 
overnight, a handsome piece of furniture. He had not 
supposed that she cared to invest it with sentimental 
recollections of her old home and her maiden days. Or 
did she ? 

He brooded over the ways of women, of which he 
proudly supposed himself to know nothing, when a 
female servant came through the outer hall, bearing 
to-day's paper, which she laid down on the yellow 



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264 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

cushions beside him. He had no time to ask her a 
question as to Adelaide's morning plans, for she quickly 
passed back again through the red baize door that led, 
so Ensor imagined, to the kitchen region. She left the 
door open. A waft of sounds came to him, voices, one of 
which he fancied was the voice of the famous and omni- 
potent Gertrude, on whom so far he had never set eyes, 
while the other he knew to be Adelaide's. She was 
already down and afoot, then; she was a good house- 
keeper, and gave her orders early? 

She was evidently holding the handle of the door pre- 
paratory to coming through, finishing a sentence which 
he did not hear. The tone in which Gertrude permitted 
herself to answer her mistress set him against her ; it was 
raucous, coarsely good-humoured, and her speech, of 
which he caught fragments here and there, grossly 
familiar. 

"With me? You've told Phillis? Well, that's quick 
work, I must say ! " 

"It's got to be done," Adelaide replied sturdily, he 
heard her. "And the sooner the better." 

"The other '11 miss her!" 

"That can't be helped. You needn't mind— Phillis '11 
profit. This very day, mind ! " 

There was a pause. The cook had gone back into the 
kitchen some little way before she replied, and the vicious 
emphasis with which she spoke was accentuated by the 
clang of a dish, roughly set down on some pantry shelf 
or other. 

"I don't mind, but it seems a queer sort of way to go 
and treat your own flesh and blood ! " 

Adelaide let the door go sharply and, bag in hand, 
came forward to greet her guest. She had not expected 
to see him already down, and said so. She looked exces- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 265 

sively handsome, if a trifle pale, as she pushed her hand 
through the cloudy swathes of hair that lay across her 
forehead. With characteristic crankiness, she arranged 
her hair across, not over or back from her fofehead. It 
became her. 

She stood chatting to her guest, telling him that break- 
fast was not ready yet, for that lazy little Phillis, whose 
business it was to make the tea, had had a fit of temper 
this morning early, and was not dressed yet. While she 
was speaking, Phillis looked over the banisters, and 
addressed her mother, calling her by her Christian name, 
a fashion that Ensor disliked. He fancied that perhaps 
the child was allowed, nay enjoined to do so, in order to 
minimize the effect of her size and the precocious develop- 
ment on the age-estimation of her mother, a natural 
weakness to which Adelaide, like other ladies, was prob- 
ably prone. 

"Oh, Addie ! " the child said appealingly. "Mayn't I 
really have Mary to sleep with me any more ? " 

"No," replied Adelaide. "It is high time Gertrude 
began to train her. . . . Now, don't worry, it would be 
poor kindness to keep her any longer with you, spoiling 
a good servant and unfitting her for her station. Go in 
and make tea." 

Phillis obeyed sulkily. Ensor was glad to see her put 
up a good fight for her companion. 

Adelaide perched with a childish movement on the 
arm of the sofa, showing a pretty ankle in its openwork 
stocking. She looked like a handsome, capable gipsy, as 
she sat there, dangling her everlasting bag. . . . 
• •••••• 

"I've been asking Gertrude," she said carelessly, "if 
she remembers you, and she says she does. You must 
look her up after breakfast." 



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266 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"But I never saw her ! " he said, unwillingly, remem- 
bering her voice so lately heard. "You mean your cook 
in Portland Place ? " 

" Not much of a cook, was she ? But so faithful. And 
I needed it. She needed me. She had a lover who was 
a prize-fighter, and he deserted her and left her with that 
wretched child you've seen, to keep. ... It is a case of 
atavism, I expect, for he was a fine fellow." 

"Was that she beating the dog this morning? " 

"Yes. She's got good strong hands." 

An exultant gleam, an instantaneous flicker, as 
though by some new unexpected mode of invention, he 
had been afforded a kodak view of the suddenly pro- 
truded forked tongue of a viper, crossed Ensor's excited 
vision. He shuddered. And Adelaide suddenly, but 
with an air of intense premeditation, slipped off the arm 
of the sofa and kissed him. 



Ill 

Impelled by the sudden fruition of all that was morbid 
in his nature, Wald Ensor, towards the end of the year, 
married Mary Adelaide Frances, the widow of J.Dibben, 
Esq. It is a fact that until he bestirred himself to apply 
for the licence, he had not known the name of the father 
of Phillis. Adelaide never refused but seemed to prefer 
not to speak of him. Ensor supposed that Dibben, a 
healthy, ordinary man of no preponderating degree of 
intellect, had quickly managed to alienate and embitter 
a capricious, easily-bored woman like Adelaide. He 
was too modest to imagine that he himself amused her 
or interested her to any great extent, but at all events, 
he thought she considered him adequate, In his corn- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 267 

pany, she appeared to find the nearest approach, for her, 
to a state of repose. She took possession of him, body 
and soul. He realized it faintly. She even seemed to 
have made some slight sacrifice of her individuality with 
a view to enslaving him completely. Though to every 
one else her manner was curt, unpleasant and at times 
unbearably arrogant, she stayed her savage tongue and 
curbed her domineering temper whenever it came in 
direct contact with her husband. And even had she 
allowed her natural acerbity full play, the fact that she 
was now about to become a mother for the second time, 
called forth all Ensor's chivalry and tenderness. 

He rejoiced greatly at his approaching paternity. 
The want that had been created deep in his heart by 
the premature death of his child out in California was 
about to be completely satisfied; the void that for 
lack of a better he had filled with Adelaide's child, 
Phillis Dibben, he had adopted openly; while, secretly, 
Mary, her foster sister, as he in his heart called her, 
was far dearer to him. Phillis Dibben was unsympa- 
thetic, he did not think hers was altogether a nice nature, 
but still she was a child, and Ensor's love of children 
was a real and true sentiment. 

Though Adelaide and he had met first on the common 
ground of their philoprogenitive instinct, Ensor had 
come t.o suspect that his own was the truer development 
of it. Adelaide admired healthy, presentable specimens . 
of the class only, and the beauty of Phillis as an un- 
deniable guarantee of her own Eugenical perfection 
afforded the amount of toll to her vanity, the satisfaction 
of her pride that was needed to evoke the motherly in 
her. It was the only motive that swayed her, Ensor 
thought. Or else why did she so neglect the cook's 
unhappy progeny, the child she had begun by petting, 



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268 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

and more or less treating as her own ? He could not 
forget that he had seen Mary, now degraded to a servant, 
on the day he had come across her in Beverley, sitting 
in the car with Adelaide's own child. The turn was too 
sudden. It outraged his sense of decency. 

Ensor, whose large heart was capable, where children 
were concerned, of embracing the halt and the maimed 
and the eugenically incorrect, could hardly endure to 
let the question stand over till Adelaide was more fit 
to deal with it. He constrained himself to do so, how- 
ever, and contented himself with speaking kindly to the 
little girl whenever he met her on the stairs or in the 
corridors. She did not walk, she crawled; he had an 
idea she was slightly deformed? He realized that it 
was Mary he had stumbled over that first morning as 
she knelt by a side door into the garden, feebly scouring 
some stone steps. Her translation from the padded seat 
of the car to the hard stones she was washing had been 
so sudden that he could not easily conceive it to be she. 

After a while he did speak to Adelaide. She made no 
mystery of it. She was a woman of her word, and Mary's 
play days were over. Yes, it was true, she had until 
then been more or less brought up with Phillis, had 
shared her room and her meals and walks and games. 
It had pleased Phillis, but she could not sacrifice a 
child's whole future even to please Phillis, so now that 
was over. With a sort of fiendish rationalism and want 
of consistency, she condemned a child brought up, 
through her caprice, in comparative ease and idleness, 
to do the rough work of the house, eat inferior food, 
worst of all, she subtracted her from all the softening 
educative influences to which she had been accustomed. 

He listened, tapping his boot with his riding-whip. 
He said nothing. He thought it over. If only the child 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 269 

could hold on, it would of course be as well not to worry 
Adelaide just now, but wait till she had got safely over 
her forthcoming experience, always a severe mental trial 
to women of her temperament. Then, surely, milder 
counsels might prevail ; he might get Mary reinstated, a 
kind of foster sister to Phillis, and that was what he 
would like best. Oh, very much best, for he had the 
greatest, the most absurd, tenderness for the ugly, sad 
unchildish child ! But if that were impossible, if her 
mistress still refused to allow it, Mary might at least 
be taken out of this and sent away to some bright, well- 
managed school, or home of her own class, to be pro- 
perly trained and educated. He did not like the notion 
of her being brought up to be a servant, she did not look 
as if she would ever be strong enough. But there were 

other professions. He would see ? 

Meantime he did what he could for the child, and that 
was very little. She never appeared in the better part 
of the house that the red baize door shut off, and he 
sometimes fancied that Adelaide disliked to see him 
cross the threshold of it into the other. Yet the oldest 
and most interesting part of High Walls lay beyond, and 
Ensor was something of an antiquary, where architecture 
was concerned. He did not want to annoy his wife, 
however, and he was careful to conduct his architectural 
investigations from the back, where the historical por- 
tions of the house were situated. There Mary's work 
lay, and he often spied her at her task of ablution on 
steps and hearth stones, armed with a pail and a piece 
of bath-brick, feebly scouring, swirling a wet rag about, 
ineffectually spreading long spiderlike arms in a radius 
of their length all round her and producing a dull wet 
surface, to be succeeded by a bright brown sanded one, 
where before all was dull, unvisited dust or dirt. She 



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270 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

had terribly long arms for a child of her size and age, 
and she was moreover, he noticed, left-handed like him- 
self. He would stand there for quite a long time looking 
down on her rusty red ribbon top-knot, knowing that the 
child was aware of him, but was far too well drilled to 
look up and crave his notice. How had they managed 
to transmogrify her so quickly, from a sort of foster 
sister to Phillis, sleeping with Phillis, driving about in 
the motor with Phillis and her mother, into the submis- 
sive drudge who never looked up till he spoke to her, 
and then with a sad cowed expression that went to his 
heart ? 

If she were actually carrying a heavy pail, too heavy 
for her or trailing a broom long enough for a person 
twice her height, he considered he was justified in taking 
the pail or the broom away from her at once and trying 
to learn from her the place where she wished it to be 
deposited. It was difficult to get her to speak at all, and 
she got shyer as the days went on. He felt, manlike, 
that he could scarcely offer to go down on his knees and 
scrub the stone floor in her stead, but he would have 
liked to do so, for he realized that it was not a child's 
work. He fancied that the School Board, if they were 
aware that one of their prey was thus day by day re- 
moved from every form of school training, might have 
something to say about it, and dreaded some sort of 
exposure for Adelaide. Mary was given no tuition of 
any kind ; he was sure of it. High Walls was five miles 
away from Market Weighton, and though in the nearest 
hamlet, consisting of a few cottages, there was a school 
that was half-a-mile distant, Mary never went beyond 
the garden, if indeed she got anytresh air at all. 

The place was curiously self-contained, in its girdling 
walls. Adelaide did her own marketing in the motor, 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 271 

tradesmen never penetrated within their circumference. 
As it used to be said of the house in Portland Place 
that anything might go on there, so it might be said 
of High Walls, Adelaide had perhaps chosen to live 
here, perhaps through some affectionate analogy with 
the home of her birth and the house in which her mother 
had died. She had bought High Walls outright, so he 
learned, she made her own gas, she kept her own fowls 
and her own cows, and she ordered her clothes from 
Paris, fetching large wooden boxes that had crossed the 
seas, from the station herself, in the ever useful motor. 
In everything she did there was a brusquerie, a jerki- 
ness, a suggestion of eccentricity. 

There was no doubt that for one reason or another, 
from austerity, shyness and love of solitude, or simply 
from lack of social instinct, Adelaide had succeeded in 
creating a human vacuum all round her, an area steril- 
ized of gossip. Since their marriage, before the 
registrar, three months ago, Mrs. Ensor, her husband 
felt pretty sure, had had no visitors. As a matter of 
fact, Ensor knew of three people who said they had 
driven or motored out to High Walls to pay their 
respects to the lady he had married, but even if they 
had done so, admittance was probably refused them. 
These were the wives of men that Ensor had met about 
in Market Weighton or Beverley, and who had enjoined 
their women folk to call on the queer, uncivilized woman 
whom this gentle, civilized man that they rather liked, 
had married. It was easy for Ensor to see that she was 
not popular. If people even realized her previous exist- 
ence, they forbore to t^lk of her, and the call was only a 
tribute to his own charm and obvious pleasant gentle- 
manliness. For he was a man's man, a man whom 
women are apt to find dull. But as Adelaide never went 



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272 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

out, never returned a call, never expected to be asked to 
anything, it was easy enough to be civil to the husband, 
and make him free of what there was of Society in these 
sleepy little market towns. Before very long Wald 
Ensor belonged to the Conservative Club of Beverley, 
and was put on the Library Committee of that active little 
place, while in Weighton he played golf, and adjudged 
prizes. The wives' drawing-rooms knew him not or 
hardly at all, he could not very well go about among 
the women without Adelaide, and he did not choose 
to do so. 

He constrained himself to be more or less active in 
whatever was going, to fulfil his trivial duties as a 
citizen when they came his way, partly from a sense of 
duty, partly, he fancied, because the monotony of his 
existence at High Walls was slowly sapping his vitality, 
dulling his good temper and sense of good fellowship. 
The desire to travel again sometimes came over him 
in a great wave. If it had not been for Phillis and 
Adelaide, he said to himself : if it had not been for 
Mary, he did not say or even think to himself — he would, 
in certain irrepressible moods, have proposed it to his 
wife, to leave her for a time. 

He could not, somehow, talk to Adelaide now; he 
thought it was because of her condition. He had come 
to think that everything, including questioning, plans 
and so on, must be deferred until Adelaide, in her own 
phrase, was "through." She thought and talked of 
nothing else. It was an event of more than ordinary 
importance to her. Well, it would be over in a few 
months. Then he would ask her about her social 
ostracism. He would find out if it was self-incurred, a 
voluntary effort on her part ? Or was it a case of sour 
grapes, and had she been clever enough to make a virtue 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 273 

out of necessity ? She was clever enough for anything, 
of that he was convinced. Or had she from pique, 
temper or caprice, so obstinately refused herself at 
the beginning, when first she had come to settle in 
Yorkshire, that people had grown tired at last of 
making overtures of friendship ; overtures that were con- 
tinually repulsed by the sour chatelaine of the lonely 
house, in its belt of sombre trees and solid deterrent 
masonry. 

He could not ask her this now, he could not ask her 
anything. He literally knew nothing about the woman 
he had married and taken to his breast, together with 
her child and her cook and her cook's bastard, with the 
name that a man unknown had given her and which he 
had superseded so easily. 

He did not know how long she had lived in Yorkshire, 
why she lived in Yorkshire, and why she had taken a 
mansion that was little better than a prison in which they 
two lived immured. 

To do her justice, she did not seek to prison him there 
with her, she made no objection to his leaving her for 
hours. She would not seemingly have minded his leav- 
ing her for days, only he never did. He was held by her 
lazy, picturesque indifference, by the remembrance of 
the attraction of her bursts of passion in the days when 
she was not, as now, concentrating every force of her 
being on one single point, the bearing of a healthy child, 
a wonderful child, a child that should be even more 
eugenical than Phillis. He did not know that he was 
weak, but he knew that she was strong and that when 
he was not loving her, he was afraid of her. Yes, he, 
Wald Ensor, the man who' had shot tigers and braved 
artillery and dug for* gold under circumstances of almost 
impossible fortitude and endurance, was afraid of this 



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274 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

hawk-nosed, straight-lipped woman, with the thin wrists, 
the small feet and the vanishing waist. 

She was ruining him, she was breaking his spirit, 
making him a craven, as in another department Gertrude 
the cook, with her " good strong hands " that he shud- 
dered to look at, was making of Mary. Mary, her 
child, the human being over, whom she had power, even' 
as Adelaide his wife, had power over him. He was 
sure of it. With her cruel, if necessary, training, 
Gertrude was killing her child by inches. In obedience 
to her mistress's strange wild theory of economics, the 
warped little body of the cook's child was being maimed 
and stunted, her mind dwarfed and annulled, her moral 
and physical growth contravened beyond recall. For 
Adelaide, with her strong will and sense of duty, was 
behind Gertrude, driving her to do what she thought 
was right and correct for the child of humble birth 
domiciled under her roof. She was right, economically 
right ', it were indeed useless and extravagantly unprac- 
tical to bring up the cook's child in luxury, beyond her 
station; the wrench of unfitness for her inevitable 
degradation and fall to her true station in life would be 
all the more severe later; on. Only Adelaide's want of 
imagination, however, could inure her to the thought of 
such a situation created by her own behest. Adelaide ! 
fond of children ! Never ! Ensor smiled bitterly under 
his drooping moustache, and forced himself to remember 
that Adelaide had the defects of her qualities, and that 
philoprogenitiveness was not one of them. He had 
gauged her aright in the old days at Portland Place, or 
was it that that sly, all-seeing old father of hers had 
sown the doubt in his mind ? 

"Adelaide, fond of children! She only thinks she is. 
Cruelty masked by philanthropy." 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 



275 



And what was that about Mother's vanity, and its 
non-negligibility as a factor? He remembered the old 
man's pawky sneer as he said it. 

"Cases of baby-farming" he had argued. "There's 
sheer cruelty. If a woman ill-treats or even kills the 
child of another, no natural feeling except cruelty can 
possibly come into play, not even vanity. . . ." 

Vanity ! Yes. There it was, a clear issue. The 
beautiful Phillis, her own . . . petted, cherished ! . . . 
And on the other hand Mary, deformed, disgraced by 
Nature's hand. ... He used to hide his head in his 
hands as he contemplated the terrible antithesis. 

Get her away ! . . . He must ... as soon as 
Adelaide had given birth to the wonderful child that was 
to be hers and his ! That was settled. Meanwhile, he 
suffered, strange, unreasonable torments. Sometimes 
hanging about in the back of the house he would see 
the hem of Mary's frock or the reach of her arm, as she 
scrubbed and lathered and polished. Then, with a 
groan, he would prevent himself from turning the corner 
of yard or out-house, lest he actually caught sight of the 
child at some one of her debilitating tasks. He would 
clench his hands, stuff a great cigar into his mouth, any- 
thing to keep him from rushing upon the poor waif, 
lifting her up, and boldly facing Gertrude, carry her 
off to America or the Antipodes. 

One day, feeling he could bear it no longer, he got 
on to his bicycle and rode out to Weighton, on purpose 
to buy something; toys, sweatmeats, he did not know 
what, for Mary. Too handsome a present might bring 
down a beating, he sadly suspected; he had better get 
her something to eat, something nourishing, something 
that would disappear. He was about to invest in choco- 
late fondants, the best, when he suddenly realized that 

T2 



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276 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the cook's child had been back in her proper station 
full three months, and would no longer appreciate the 
kind of eatables that would appeal to Phillis, who was 
a gourmet. He asked for and procured the wholesome 
candy, and rode home, tired and depressed. The 
impulse which had sent him out was a little spent. Poor 
Mary was the cook's child after all, bred to servitude, 
doing only what her mother had done before her. He 
was a meddling busybody and would probably only 
succeed in getting the poor little creature a beating. . . . 

He was thinking of Adelaide and Phillis now — of the 
rich sensuous beauty of Adelaide's child, and the un- 
canny handsomeness of his wife. The devilish attraction 
of it swayed him, always more especially when he was 
tired and overwrought. It was her eyes. . . . 

However, he had got the candy, a fat packet that 
ought to rejoice any normal child's heart, and on 
arriving home he went boldly into the rear premises 
through the red baize door, and asked where Mary 
was? 

Gertrude, coarse, homely, but on the whole well 
favoured, suspended her chopping operations at a board, 
and raising her chin, regarded him quizzically. With 
a kind of good-humoured malice, so it appeared to him, 
she slightly deferred her reply. . . . Then she said 
calmly — 

"Mary is in the scullery." 

Raising her voice she called — 

"Mary! You're wanted." 

Quickly, obediently, a drooping, crestfallen figure of 
infancy appeared and stood in the sunlight that poured 
through the doorway, flung from a wide open window 
far back in the room she came from. It irradiated the 
ground she stood on and the filmy mass of cobwebs over 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 277 

her head ; it could not light her up, any more than the 
bogey in the fields which flaps lank and dull in the full 
glare of noontide. And this was a living child, rendered 
by what means he knew not, unsusceptible, like any 
scarecrow, of light and joy. The depressed red bow on 
the top of her head looked as if it had not been untied 
for weeks. The hem of her skirt was partially torn 
off, it was far too long for her, and she had fastened, 
or some one had fastened it up for her, clumsily with 
a piece — two pieces of string. It showed a dirty pair of 
knickerbockers. 

She stood, waiting patiently, blinking a little, hideous, 
shapeless, piteous. Gertrude said nothing but looked 
from one to the other, comparing them as it were, enjoy- 
ing herself quietly, like a rough in the front row of 
the pit. 

. After a while, as if the play had lasted long enough, 
she said — 

"Come here ! I'll put a pin in for you." 
Mary came shuffling up, not unwillingly. She did not 
seem to dislike her mother, that is all that could be 
said, and Ensor was glad to be able to think it possible 
that Gertrude was not always unkind to her. But such 
shocking neglect, even if there had been no excessive 
corporal punishment, was culpable. He stood, handling 
the packet of sweets dubiously, while the mother pro- 
ceeded, with many a shake and pull, to modify her child's 
disorder, which she had the sense to see injured her in 
the opinion of her master, if master he could be called 
who had no authority. At last summoning his courage, 
Ensor pulled out the packet and put it into Mary's 
hand as she stood there, pending the adjustment of 
clothes that could hardly be called such, so ragged and 
insufficient were they. 



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278 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The sweets fell to the ground, dropped with strange 
unchildish negligence from a nerveless hand. The 
child did not even look up. A spasm of agony trans- 
fixed the heart of Ensor. 

Gertrude noticed the violent contraction of his features. 
She picked up the packet of bull's eyes, and actually 
inserted one into Mary's mouth. Ensor did not see if 
the child retained it, for he was groping on the ground 
for some of the sweets that had fallen out of the burst 
packet. 

"Say thank you, you silly!" Gertrude adjured the 
child who stood astonished, bewildered, by such ordinary 
attentions as are the usual award of the protected and 
cherished young of any class. She was passive through 
fright, but if she had had the spirit, it was easy to see 
that her one idea was to hide, and that her eyes were 
looking for a corner to run into. But her mother had 
hold of her, ordering her attire, shaking her as if she 
had been a small frail apple-tree. 

"That's a very unsuitable length for a child's dress, 
surely?" Ensor remarked, when Mary stood, hardly 
erect, sheepish but disengaged at last. The peccant 
undergarments were shoved into their proper place, 
more or less, and concealed, and her long loose frock 
was draped into paniers all round her. 

"She's skinny, that's what it is !" conceded Gertrude. 
"Nothing won't stay up round her! The, dress too 
long, eh ? No wonder ! It's one of Phillis's that 
Miss Adelaide threw away because it was too bad 
for her beauty to wear. It had to do for my Mary, 
hadn't it? We can't afford to have clothes made on 
purpose for us, can we ? Now run away, run away and 
play ! " 

She grinned. Mary stood stock still. 

"You're to grow into your clothes, I see," said Ensor 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 279 

helplessly. "Well, make haste and grow, there's a good 
girl ! " 

Mary smiled. Even if the gentleman's words were 
absurd and irrelevant, she could not be deceived in the 
kindness of the speaker's intention. 

The smile, begun without spirit or brilliance, faded 
out like sunlight on a wall on a rainy day. Gertrude 
took up his speech, and answered it. 

11 Grow ! Her ! Never fear ! Mary's one of those 
stunted-from-birth ones Miss Adelaide's always talking 
about. Just look at these thundering long arms ! " 

She extended to its full length the gnome-like, skinny 
limb to which she alluded. The owner suffered this 
liberty wearily. Her stupid glazed eyes were fixed on 
Ensor. They seemed to say, "Save me 1 Save me ! " 
He stammered out — 

"Couldn't she be sent to the sea for a month or so? 
... I would arrange it. . . . That is, if you could 
spare her ? " 

He waited on the cook's answer agonizedly. She was 
in effect the child's mother, with absolute power over it 
for life and death. ... 

"Spare her, Lord, yes!" answered the cook calmly. 
" The work she does isn't worth speaking about. You're 
nobbut a poor worker, aren't you, Mary ? " She turned 
to Ensor, away from the child, but she did not trouble 
to drop her voice at all — 

"'Twould be no good, Sir. I'm thinking Miss 
Adelaide's begun her grand training too late." 
"What d'you mean?" he asked. 
"She'll be training her into her grave, that's what 
she's doing." 

"Sh— h ! for God's sake, woman ! " he muttered, and 
sought his wife. Something must be done. 



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280 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He had no authority, except, strange to say, as far 
as Phillis was concerned. And though Phillis's physical 
upbringing left nothing to be desired, he considered 
her mental education in some ways to be defective. 
Adelaide placed no obstacle whatever to his realization 
of certain views he had formulated and insisted on to the 
verge of tediousness with regard to the moral standards 
to be inculcated in a young growing girl. 

She listened patiently, while he exposed these theories, 
and her thin lips wore something more nearly approach- 
ing to a smile at these times than any other, while her 
husband thus took a practical interest in the future of 
her daughter. He reasoned broadly, and generally ; he 
could not lay his whole mind before the wife of Phillis's 
father. For that father counted, and not, in Ensor's 
idea, favourably. Phillis had certain strongly marked 
tendencies which he deplored, and which he conceived 
her to derive from the parent he did not know. She 
had undoubtedly a strain of the coarse and the callous ; 
her father had probably had these characteristics more 
strongly developed. She had also some disagreeable 
qualities that he distinguished in and traced from 
Adelaide, and that careful training might cross and deny 
and finally eradicate. She was sly, she was morbid, 
she was headstrong and reckless of the claims of others. 

So, acting with Adelaide's authority, delegated to him, 
unquestioningly, he kept a strict watch and supervision 
on the books she read, and the conversations she heard 
or took part in. He did not countenance her frequent 
visits to the kitchen and her odd indecent familiarity 
with Gertrude the cook. He had asked his wife if he 
might not prohibit the child from entering the servants' 
quarters altogether, and seal the red baize door that led 
to them against her use. He would like to forbid all 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 281 

entrance and egress by it, and force her to give her word 
of honour that she would observe the prohibition. 

"She may give it, but she won't keep it," said Adelaide 
lazily. "You can't wonder. She's fond of Gertrude, 
because she gives her tit-bits, and Phillis is greedy, poor 
darling ! And then " — she looked up in his face — 
"there's your beloved Mary! She's about, and you 
must remember the two were brought up together. 
They were like foster sisters before you came. You 
altered everything. And now I am going to have your 
child!" 

He stooped and kissed her, full of premature paternal 
emotion. Adelaide was supposed to be not quite 
so well to-day. She was lying on the famous tiger- 
skin that he had given her, and which she had spread 
over a low wide couch in the hall. She chose to lie on it 
always, so that the brute's savage head was close to 
her own. Loving and akin, the live Adelaide and the 
dead beast he had given her, both reeked of each other. 
There was all the hot suggestion of the jungle, of care- 
less natural savagery in the juxtaposition of the tiger's 
snarling teeth, Adelaide's dusky eyes, and the spots and 
splashes of black that showed on each side of her spare 
form, like caked, dried blood upon the gold. It was his 
wife's boast that her beautiful figure was hardly altered 
by her present condition, and the shocking cruelty to 
the unborn implied in this attainment of an unnatural 
shapeliness was lost on the simple fellow who was so 
soon to be a father. 

"Our child," he said, kissing her again passionately, 
"is the thing that matters." 

Then the recollection of that other child went through, 
pierced his heart like an arrow. He rose from his knees. 
All the blood in his body came into his face. He stood 



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282 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

looking down on the woman, who had returned the 
passion of his caress with all the force of which she was 
at present capable. A large patch on the tiger-skin, a 
zebra mark bitten in, zig-zagging across the yellow fur, 
focussed his eyes. . . . 

"Adelaide," he prayed softly, "could we not take 
Mary back into the house again ? " 

" No," Adelaide said. She spoke quite quietly too, but 
Ensor knew her ; a storm was coming. 

"Then," he said pleadingly. "Could she not be sent 
away for a bit — or" — his immense struggle betrayed 
itself in his voice — "for good?" 

"You cannot interfere with Gertrude's business," came 
plumb and sharp from Adelaide. " If Gertrude likes to 
leave me, she can of course take her child away with her. 
But I cannot do without Gertrude, and Gertrude will 
never leave me. Ask her." 

She turned away, and laid her cheek against the flat 
head of the tiger. 

"And I was so happy ! " she wailed, in bitter accents. 

He knelt down again. Her breath came quick. He 
feared for her. 

"It is no use," she said. "You have spoilt it all. 
And all for the sake of a dirty misbegotten little wretch 
whose own mother can't stand her and beats and neglects 
her. I don't blame Gertrude. Don't you understand, 
Wald, Mary is one of the wrecklings, one of Nature's 
faults that ought to have been smothered at birth? I 
wish I had. I wish somebody had. My father would 
have put her away fast enough if I had asked him, only 
like a fool, I was kind to Gertrude, and saw her through 
with it. But I have come to hate the very sight of the 
child ! And you — you to come snivelling to me about 
her. . . . You ! " 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 283 

She laughed. Her passion was spent. She looked 
him, her husband, up and down, contemptuously. 

He murmured: "Don't, don't excite yourself! " 

"I won't," she said squarely, turning her face round 
to the wall. "I'm better now. I won't let you hurt me. 
I'll even discuss the unwholesome brat, if you like, that'll 
show you I don't care. Get on. Talk quietly and tell 
me what's wrong about Mary's upbringing." 

"You are very good," Ensor murmured, "are you sure 
it won't upset you?" 

"No, I tell you." She sat up and faced him. She 
pulled a basket of needle-work towards her and busied 
herself with it. Her hands did not shake. Ensor 
admired her. After all, she had no nerves, and he might 
as well say his say about the child, get better terms of 
existence for her, and be done with the subject. He 
made up his mind he would not say much ; he would not 
descend to particulars of her ill treatment unless Adelaide 
asked for them. He began gently — 

" I do think, don't you ? that when all's said and done, 
Mary's young, and even a servant's child ought to have 
some joy of its life. Mary oughtn't to be made to slave 
like a grown-up. Hang it all, a simple child should 
lightly draw its breath, not to the tune of housework 
and floorscrubbing. The sight of that poor kid carry- 
ing those heavy pails about makes me quite sick. I 
should like to tell you what I saw yesterday. Gertrude 
must be an unnatural mother " 

"Well, speak out, what did you see? " Adelaide asked 
sharply. 

"You were out driving. Mary was standing by one 
of the high windows in the hall " 

"She'd no business to be there. Suppose a caller 
came ? " 



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284 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"No callers come. Why don't they, by the way ? " 

"I hate people. I've snubbed them all, they daren't 
show their noses here. Go on. What was your paragon 
doing in the hall ? " 

"She was eating something out of an enamel tin 
platter such as you feed dogs in, laid on the sill. The 
platter was not over clean, and I don't know what the 
mess was, but it looked most unappetizing and she 
seemed to be — yes, actually picking something — some- 
thing disgusting — something alive out of it. ... ! " 

"Pah, you sicken me!" Adelaide screamed. Ensor 
went on relentlessly, now that he was wound up. . . . 

" I put my hand on to her little scrubby head with that 
faded knot of red ribbon on the crown " 

"I wonder you can touch it. Don't touch me." 

"And I told her not to eat the nasty stuff, and what 
was it ? She said it was bits Gertrude cut off the toast 
before it went in the dining-room, the same as the dog 
had. It looked days old — quite mouldy. I shouldn't 
like to give such a mess to my dog. I can only account 
for it as a morbid taste of the young growing child, and 
I bade her throw it away, and not eat between meals. 
It shows the shocking state of health she's in, and she's 
morbidly inventive, for then she said " 

"What did she say?" 

"That it was her breakfast. Nonsense, I said. But 
she stuck to it. She seemed cowed, brutalized, but she 
stuck to it. I say, Adelaide — I know you aren't very 
fit jtfst now, but oughtn't you to make some inquiries? 
Does Gertrude beat her or ill treat her ? I hear sounds, 
of a morning sometimes — not so much lately since you've 
been seedy — but they freeze my blood, until I realize 
that it's the dog getting a licking. . . . Oh, Adelaide, 
reassure me, don't you see a man can't stand the 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 285 

suspicion of such a thing in his house? A helpless 
child. . . ." 

The drops of sweat stood on his forehead. Adelaide 
spoke, as it were a prepared speech, which it was now 
time to make. 

"Your house! " she said. It was hers and the man 
winced, . . . 

She continued, raising herself a little. "Look here! 
Mary's a liar as well as a pig. You've owned it. Morbid 
— is that all ? I say a filthy, beastly liar ! . . . And, 
Wald, Pm going to bear your child, and if you want 
to have a healthy one, born alive — you haven't had much 
luck with children, so you say — you had better not worry 
me. . . . Let me have this chance. I'll never try again. 
I shall kill myself if this one does not come off. Sup- 
pose you be wise in time, and leave off meddling in 
my domestic concerns, and go and attend to your own. 
You've a meeting of the Library Committee in Beverley 
at three. It's full time." She glanced composedly at 
the watch that lay on her breast, and lay down again 
as if it were a duty. . . . 

He went about his business, trying to calm down in 
the quiet operation of the natural round, and the mild 
form of civic functions that filled his days. Adelaide 
was right, an important meeting of the Library Com- 
mittee was on for to-day, at which he had announced 
his intention of speaking, for the subject interested him 
personally. It was a question of morals as applied to 
the feast of contemporary literature spread before the 
youth of Beverley and Weighton. Ensor's contention 
was that as young girls formed the main contingent of 
the readers of books in all provincial towns it behoved 
far-seeing and right-minded city councillors to see that 
no works pernicious in quality or deleterious in tone 



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286 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

should be delivered over to their private consumption. 
Their elders, with a taste for life, spiced and otherwise, 
should purchase outright the literature their souls loved, 
and leave the shelves of chance to works of limpid purity 
and unimpeachable if dreary moral tone. 

The Library Committee was composed of enlightened 
men and women, for it had been founded by an exceed- 
ingly busy and fussy Mrs. Marrable, "a bit of a 
Socialist," as she called herself. She was at any rate 
a person professedly open to all the new ideas. The 
Committee were a little afraid of her, and had come to 
look to Ensor, the shy silent embodiment of Conserva- 
tive, almost retrograde feeling in their midst, to oppose 
her. He generally began his sentences : " I know I am 
a bit old-fashioned." This was a capital counterblast 
to Mrs. Marrable and her "bit" of Socialism. They 
found him invaluable, a sort of slipper on the wheels 
of frenzied progress, and Mrs. Marrable was not easily 
gainsaid. She was a relation of the Bishop's cousin, 
and had lived in Beverley for years in a big red house 
where she entertained Saturday to Monday parties from 
London. She had no daughters. 

Another influential member, Canon St. Leger, un- 
married, and living in the best house in the Close, was a 
friend of Ensor's, though he had not asked him to come 
in so much lately. . . \ 

Indeed, looking round the green baize-covered table 
where all the Committee found themselves at last seated, 
it occurred to Ensor that he had not shaken hands with 
a single one of his confreres since the last meeting, and 
that was a month ago. For that reason, he supposed, 
they seemed strange to him, although they were all or 
nearly all, people with whom he had been desired to 
take pot luck on any occasion, lunch, or dinner, when 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 287 

he had ridden in from High Walls on his bicycle and 
found he had put it too late to get back. All except 
Mrs. Marrable, with whom for political and tempera- 
mental reasons he had always cared to have very little 
to do. 

While the Committee dealt with some purely financial 
and business matters, which called for no more atten- 
tion from the members of the Committee than was 
implied in passing a vote of confidence or holding up 
hands for a resolution, Ensor wrought himself up into 
a strange state of nervous apprehension. It might have 
been mere perverse fancy, but as a matter of fact not 
one of these people had spoken to him since they sat 
down, or recognized his presence except by a nod of 
salutation such as the barest courtesy demanded. The 
attitude of each several person could be accounted for 
separately. So-and-so had come in late, such a one had 
too many irons in the fire to be able to spare a word till 
the meeting was over, but still — there it was, the inde- 
finable uneasiness, the disagreeable insinuating point 
that morbid imaginings could establish. No one had 
actually addressed a word to him ! . . . 

He brooded over this — he was tired, overwrought and 
annoyed, for the child Phillis had shown a sad racial 
cloven foot to-day. He was afraid she was not going to 
turn out so well as he could have wished. By and by 
other business being disposed of, the Committee were 
invited to deal with the question of detailed selection of 
books for the Library. It was a subject on which Ensor 
was keenly interested, and here he had so much to say 
that he forgot his preoccupation and did not allow his 
natural shyness to interfere with the expression of his 
opinion. He was strongly against the determination of 
Mrs. Marrable, to permit, nay, to encourage, the intro- 



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288 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

duction of a certain novel, the work of one of her literary 
confreres, into the list of the Library. Ensor had had 
the book sent him from London, so as to acquaint himself 
with its supposed nature. He had carefully kept it out of 
the way of his womenkind, until having thoroughly 
digested it, he threw it into the fire. Yet this book was 
to be placed on the shelves of the Library to which Ade- 
laide subscribed, and a copy of it would be sure to find 
its way to High Walls ! He could not bear the idea of 
such a girl as Phillis, eager, sensuous, full of strong, 
exuberant, readily-awakened sex instincts, sucking in the 
unhealthy, unnecessary knowledge presented so cleverly 
by this book, and it'seemed to his hypochondriacal imagin- 
ings that the tendency of the rest of the Committee was to 
override his objections per se. He grew tremendously 
excited, and the Committee wondered to see the usually 
still and discreet man, who had married the lady they 
called the terrible Mrs. Dibben, make such a violent 
exhibition of himself. 

" I haye a nearly grown-up daughter, as you all know," 
so he ended his speech, and for the moment he felt every 
inch a father. "Well, let me tell you, that I had rather 
see her lying dead at my feet than realize that she was 
taking into her pure mind anything so poisonous, so per- 
nicious, so destructive of all moral health as the work in 
question. I would rather see her starved, neglected, 
maimed even, than ruined mentally by such murderous 
nourishment. . . ." 

He stopped, he felt that the sense of the meeting was 
not with him. The silence that swallowed up the last 
word was hard and disapproving. The Chairman, Canon 
St. Leger, drubbed on his desk with a pencil. . . . Mrs. 
Marrable, divesting herself of her feather boa with the air 
of one throwing down the gauntlet, and tilting forward 
her chair, rose. . . . 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 289 

" Do I understand ? " she said, speaking with privileged 
indistinctness, but Ensor heard her for all that. "Do I 
understand from Mr. Ensor's eloquent speech, that he 
cares to throw his shield merely over a member of his own 
immediate family ? What about the stranger within his 
gates ? And I have yet to learn that spiritual injury and 
moral oppression are the only enemies worth combating ? 
Talk of mental starvation, indeed ! . . . Mental ! . . . 
There are worse things than mental starvation. There 
are blows. . . ! " 

She appeared to become hysterical and quite incoher- 
ent. 

"Such hypocrisy • . . such disgusting hypocrisy I 
never heard of. Let him look to his own house, I say — 
let him set his own house in order before we put the 
Society on to him ! " 

"Mrs. Marrable, I must beg you to observe! This 
language is impermissible here," Canon St. Leger said, 
avoiding Ensor's eye and the deprecating gestures he 
automatically made. ... "I must call upon you to 
apologize I " 

"To me," Ensor said, white to his lips. 

"Oh yes, I'll apologize to the Committee," said the 
lady, "and they'll accept my apology. They all know 
what I mean. But in the interest of Humanity, it is 
time some steps were taken, and I'll take them. . . ." 

She folded her boa tightly round her neck and passed 
out. Canon St. Leger swiftly put the retention or refusal 
of the book in question to the vote and closed the meeting. 

Ensor, dazed, his eyes blurred with unaccustomed pas- 
sion, walked away like a condemned man, condemned 
for a crime of which he was unwitting. 

He rode studiously home, meditating on these things 
to the point of falling off his bicycle. He was stunned 
with the impact of the undeserved disagreeable, and knew 



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290 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

not what to think or whom to ask for an explanation. 
And when he got home he found real trouble awaiting 
him. Phillis, who had been ailing rather unaccountably 
for some time past, had shown definite symptoms of 
illness during his absence. The little local country 
doctor, (but quite "good,") had been sent for and had 
been and gone. He had pronounced the child's uneasi- 
ness to be due to a mild attack of typhoid fever, so 
Adelaide, afoot, her eyes alight with excitement, told the 
sluggish, depressed man who dismounted from his 
bicycle at the door where she came to meet him. 

"Have something, Wald. You look pale. That 
meddling brute of a doctor has gone and ordered a nurse 
all off his own bat ! " she fretfully informed him, leading 
the way into the drawing-room and closing the door. "I 
was so angry with him when I heard what he had done. 
Of course I should have nursed her myself. The woman 
is here now so we must make the best of it." 

Ensor was secretly of opinion that Dr. Hodgson was 
right, and that the state of Adelaide's nerves would have 
made her an indifferent nurse; he, however, contented 
himself with remarking that neither himself nor Dr. 
Hodgson would approve of her sitting up at night. 

"But I shall have to as it is. No nurse can do^both. 
And, Wald, I do so detest strangers coming into the 
house 1 They go prying about, making up all sorts of 
absurd conclusions and telling the ass of a doctor every- 
thing. . . ." 

An expression of indefinable apprehension crossed her 
peevish face, and her husband was touched, taking it, as 
he did, as indicating the state of nervous tension she was 
in. Phillis's illness — her own condition 

He took her limp hand and kissed it. 

" My popr Adelaide, what have you to fear ? There's 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 291 

nothing wrong for him to find out; I don't quite approve 
of the status of Mary in the house, but after all that's 
the cook's affair, not ours. ... By the way. . . ." 

He was going to tell her something of Mrs. Marrable's 
insinuations, but concluded he had better not mention 
the matter at this juncture. ... He merely asked 
abruptly, "Where is Mary? I haven't seen her about 
for the last few days." 

M Gertrude has sent her away to some friends at Culler- 
coats, I believe. She asked me if I could spare her ! M 

"And of course you did, kind girl," said Ensor. 

"Oh yes. The work she does isn't worth thinking 
about. I told Gertrude we should never make a servant 
of her. . . . Good-bye. I must go to Phillis. I want 
to keep an eye on that nurse. I didn't like her face. A 
mischief-maker if ever there was one." 

Adelaide was gone and Ensor fell a-thinking on the 
painful scene of to-day. He was obsessed, now that it 
was over, by the recollection of a fluid and retreating 
Committee. He saw black coats, and the grey mantelets 
of the country ladies melting away from him, fleeing from 
his contact. He could not account for the social ban 
under which he appeared to lie. This was the culminat- 
ing incident; he remembered now other slighter acts of 
neglect and inattention in the past, which he had been too 
little self-conscious to observe or to piece together in a 
pattern of general avoidance and cold shouldering. The 
arraignment of the woman Marrable did not disturb him 
so much as the nervous acceptance of it by the Canon. 
Mrs. Marrable was a shrew, a local terror, a person of 
advanced views, and the author of the book in question 
was a friend of hers, probably ? . . . 

But Canon St. Leger, a decent, sober-minded man, a 
man of his own stamp 1 ... He saw his thin hand toy- 
u 2 



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292 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

ing with the suspended pencil, he heard again his meek 
milk-and-water reproof of Mrs. Marrable's unparliament- 
ary language. ... He could not away with that. . . . 

He wandered about the garden half the night with the 
puppy, now fully trained to be a perfect house-dog and 
companion. It followed him in an orderly manner from 
covert to covert under the high beetling wall with the 
thick beds of nettles growing luxuriantly at the base. 
Once, however, there was a skirmish ; the dog grew quite 
excited at what must surely have been a not unusual 
sight for him, the yellow knob of a small boy's head peer- 
ing over the wall, supported presumably from behind by 
a human Japanese ladder of other small boys. It was a 
favourite game in this neighbourhood. 

" He 1 He ! " they crowed and chuckled. " Who lives 
'ere ? Old Mother Brownrigg and her girls. He ! He ! 
No one ever comes out here alive. . . ! " 

The dog barked and sprang. Fear of his ultimately 
reaching them at last dislodged the grotesque cohort. 
Ensor, his nerves a little shaken by this noisy onslaught 
of words only half heard, turned and made his way back 
to the house. It was absurd to mind. Children were 
always climbing up the other side of that wall ; it was 
nice to climb, it had jutting courses of bricks half-way up, 
and the village curiosity was provoked and stimulated by 
the air of quasi-mystery which Adelaide chose to foster 
about High Walls, and that her rather witch-like appear- 
ance abroad, always heavily, mediaevally cloaked and 
motor-veiled, abetted. She dressed like a toadstool in the 
day. And in the evening like a panther. She strode 
along, her step was confident, her eyes abstracted, her 
whole manner carelessly insulting. No wonder the 
children were afraid of her. 

He went in, and saw the doctor coming out and ques- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 293 

tioned him about Phillis. His anxiety was easily allayed. 
The big girl was strong enough to resist a whole army 
of adverse microbes. He saw the new nurse, a tall, thin 
sprig of a woman with some indication of character. She 
was very cold and civil, especially when she spoke to 
Adelaide. He thought he saw plainly that she disliked 
the mistress of the house, already. Another 1 Poor 
Adelaide ! 

He knew he was right, as the days went on. The two 
women detested each other, skirmished every time they 
met, issued cross orders and confused the other servants. 
But the maid defeated the mistress. Dr. Hodgson, meek, 
little insignificant man that he was, resisted all Mrs 
Ensor's hints and manoeuvres, and finally, her most pal- 
pable efforts to get rid of Nurse Ferrier, who was, on her 
side, careful to give no positive offence, or commit any 
domestic crime which might lead to her dismissal on 
other grounds than medical ones. She was a capital 
nurse, even Adelaide admitted that, only Phillis no longer 
wanted one. Hodgson said she did. He further implied 
that a nurse stood between Mrs. Ensor and all fatigue or 
anxiety undesirable for a woman in her state, and that 
was the only argument Adelaide dared not, or did not 
care to, gainsay. 

The distracted woman vented her annoyance at the 
doctor's tactics on her husband, and to punish him would 
not let him see Phillis. As she spent most of her time 
in the girl's room which opened out of her own, Ensor 
saw very little of her. He found himself not very much 
cast down by this arrangement; he was much out of 
sympathy with his wife, a little fretted by her irritability, 
and was glad to defer their meeting until the need for the 
nurse's presence which so enraged her should have passed 
away. 



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294 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

He wondered, sometimes, when that would be, and 
thought he would like to ask the nurse. But she rather 
sternly, and with a sort of frigidity put on over and above 
her statutory nurse's manner, passed him in the hall or 
on the stairs. He began to fancy that Adelaide, moved 
by her strange taste for regulating the movements and 
gestures of others, had bidden her enter as little as pos- 
sible into conversation with the master of the house. 
Well! Well! . . . 

He missed Mary, to whom, in the present upheaval, he 
could have paid a little more attention. Still, presumably 
she was well. Adelaide had apparently carried out his 
expressed wishes for once, and had insisted on Gertrude's 
sending her child away for sea air. He missed the daily 
appeal of the dark eyes set in paleness, the weak gestures 
with her hands which Mary often used in lieu of speak- 
ing, as if mere movement made less stir, and drew down 
less attention on her from the cruel powers above. 
Though her face was pale it was always clean, he remem- 
bered. And a queer thing — he never remembered her sit- 
ting down. Did she ever sit down ? He had seen her 
squat, he had seen her stand, but he had never seen her 
sit except that first day in the motor-car, when, the dark 
fur cap on her head, and the dark fur up to her chin had 
made her look almost a lady. She was dressed exactly 
like Phillis, then, he remembered ! Strange monitory 
caprice of Adelaide's — an instance of her sheer love of 
power — to raise, and then to degrade ! No man could 
do such a thing except, perhaps, some savage Asiatic 
king, one in whom caprice remained the only lust left 
to satisfy. 

He did not care to affront such scenes as he had gone 
through at Beverley any more, and he took his name off 
the Committee. He stayed at home and spent this dreary, 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 295 

uneventful time mostly in wandering about the house 
followed by the dog, who had grown attached to him. It 
generally lay at his feet in the hall while he sat on one of 
the yellow chairs, reading papers endlessly, smoking far 
more than was good for him. Thus he caught the doctor, 
on his way through the outer hall to see Phillis. The 
doctor generally nodded kindly, but did not slop, there 
was nothing to say about Phillis ; she was going on well, 
and Adelaide did not expect to be confined for a couple 
of months or so. The nurse flitted by on her screw soles, 
going up and downstairs, and taking no notice of the 
solitary man. He never saw Gertrude at all. 

He was thinking seriously of going away from High 
Walls for a time, until Phillis was quite well, and Mary 
had come back, and he had got as far as the handling of 
Bradshaw and the turning of the page marked Conti- 
nental Trains, when one day the nurse chose suddenly to 
leave the orbit in which she generally travelled, between 
the red baize door into the servants' quarters and the 
staircase that led up into Phillis's sick room, and came 
straight up to Wald Ensor. The deflection of the moon 
from her course could not have surprised him more. 
She spoke. 

" I beg your pardon, Sir, but have I your permission to 
take Dr. Hodgson to see Mary ? " 

Her eyes drooped and seemed to look down both sides 
of her nose. With her white cap like a frontlet, her 
brown hair fluffed out in ascetic waves over her forehead, 
she was not altogether an unprepossessing woman. She 
was looking down at him, her lips were coldly pursed, and 
Ensor felt just as he had felt in the Beverley Committee- 
room. 

"Certainly, Nurse," he stammered, " But Mary, is she 
at home ? " 



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296 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

"She is at home, Sir, and in my opinion very unwell." 

" What is the matter with her ? I want to know. Mary 
is a special pet of mine." 

The lame, absurd words came broken from his lips. 
. . . He was not thinking of what he was saying. He 
was overwhelmed by an avalanche of doubts. Adelaide 
had lied to him. . . . " Hasn't Mary been away at all ? " 
he stammered. 

The nurse raised her eyes, and gave him one straight 
winged glance. . . . She had strong black eyebrows that 
met across her nose, and a pout that was determined. 

"She may have been. Not that I know of . . . ." Her 
nose was in the air. " Will you see her, Sir ? " she ended 
more kindly. "Perhaps you would like to know how she 
is for yourself." 

"Yes," he replied. "I should indeed. But I under- 
stood she had been sent away to the sea for her health ? 
Let us go. ... I don't know where she sleeps, when 
she is at home. . . ." 

"You shall see, Sir, if you will come with me." 

Her calmness was only a mask, Ensor felt; the quiet 
words covered an indignation that nearly broke through 
her professional reserve. She was boiling over with rage. 
She walked through the red baize door with an assured 
step, never turning or looking round at the shamefaced 
man who followed her with humble, downcast head, his 
morning paper still crumpled up in his hand. 

The red baize door marked the transition between the 
oldest and most modern parts of the house. Ensor had 
never been up the second and original staircase which 
led to the attics, and it was these that Nurse Ferrier now 
proceeded to mount. It was rather dark everywhere, for 
a heavy shower was impending, the first few drops of 
which had fallen before they left the part of the house 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 297 

where the windows were bigger. The stairs were un- 
carpeted, low and uneven. They led up to wide, emaciated 
corridors, whose panelling was worm-eaten, pale with 
age and desuetude. Low doors, plumb in the wall, 
opened into many rooms, at each of which in turn Ensor 
expected the nurse to stop and enter. 

Another flight of stairs, leading to just such another 
corridor ! The air was faint, it seemed to have been 
sealed for centuries. . . . Ensor protested . . . asked 
some sort of question. . . . "Where were they going?" 

"Into the attic, where Mary sleeps alone," the nurse 
answered. Her manner was more kindly now. 

" A child, to sleep all this way from everybody ! . . ." 
he murmured. 

She nodded but did not turn. They reached a short 
flight of five steps, built in. Ensor was quite in the 
dark, until the nurse pushed open a door at the head of 
the stairs and they emerged into the twilight of a large 
bare attic. When his eyes grew accustomed to the light, 
he realized that it occupied the whole top of the 
house. 

"Give me your hand, Sir," the nurse said quite gently. 
"You may get a shock. Mary's here, or was yesterday." 

The attic was like the aisle of a church, with chapels 
on both sides. A wide window at the very end allowed a 
milky track of light to fall along the pale, decayed floor- 
ing of the middle. There were small dormer windows 
in the embrasures formed by old, roughly-joined beams 
filled in with whitewashed lath and plaster. Each was 
like a little room shut off. Towards the centre the floor- 
ing was rotted away — the jagged boards seemed to meet 
in a pattern of interwoven flanges. 

They walked along it carefully, up to the very end, and 
Ensor saw the wide stretch of rolling country out of the 



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298 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

big window. The nurse went along it carefully, peering 
into each alcove. She seemed puzzled. 

"It was this one," she said at last. "It's so dark with 
the rain I can hardly see, but I was up here yesterday and 
got scolded for it. . . . Here she is ! " 

He stopped. His legs almost refused to move. The 
child was lying on a large thin mattress just at his feet. 
A shawl with ragged fringe covered her, and the dull 
stained tick of the mattress showed beyond it. There 
seemed to be no bed-linen, and the child's nightdress, 
which might have been originally of pink flannel, was of 
a curious ingrained dull colour. . . . 

Ensor started, and felt sick. 

"Ah, Sir, you see ? " the nurse said, and stopped. 

She bent down. . . . 

" Mary 1 " She had soft tones as well as harsh ones. 

The child, who appeared to be dozing, opened her 
eyes and turned them up at her visitors. She still had 
her ridiculous top-knot straining the hair from her fore- 
head, and the rest of it was matted on her face. Her 
hand lay open on the shawl, the other was under her 
cheek. She may have been aware of them, she did not 
look at these people. Slowly her eyes closed again and 
she lay quiet, a grey patch on the dark background of 
the pallet. 

"Mary ! " the nurse said again. "Here's Mr. Ensor 
to see you. . . . Take her up, Sir," she bade command- 
ingly. 

Ensor knelt down and lifted the upper part of the 
wretched, filthy little body half out of her bed on to one 
of his knees. As he handled her he had the sensation of 
her dry, harsh skin, and it reminded him of parchment. 
She coughed as he unavoidably jerked her in lifting. 

By his prompt obedience to her request, he had rehabil- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 299 

itated himself in the nurse's opinion, as she showed by 
the more familiar tone of her next speech. . . . 

"Did you ever see such a disreputable nightdress? 
And such a hole to let a child sleep in ? " 

She went on scolding, and Ensor realized that her 
abuse was directed at Adelaide. Yet it seemed an impos- 
sible thing to answer her. She blamed the doers of this 
deed, but in a strain so incommensurate with the depth 
of the painful emotions raised in him by the sight of the 
child's condition. . . . Seeing, however, that he was 
feeling as he should feel, she respected his wretchedness 
and spoke gently. 

"She's been alone so all night, but will you stay with 
her, Sir, while I fetch the doctor ? It's just on his time 
for coming. I may catch him before Mrs. Ensor sees him." 

She crept away. Ensor heard her gently close the 
attic door. There was silence, and her heels, on the 
stair, tapped . . . retreating. 

Left alone in the attic with a dying child across his 
knee, the man tried frantically to collect his thoughts. 
Beyond a little dry, patient cough, made as it were of 
ashes and dust, which racked her now and then, Mary 
lay quite still across his knees. He changed his position, 
and now he sat on the floor beside the mattress. His 
eyes grew accustomed to the lighting of this place and 
he saw that there was a small window in each embrasure, 
and the one opposite him on the other side of the house 
had panes. That immediately over Mary's bed was open 
to the air. The glass had evidently been cracked and 
had fallen out leaving jagged pieces in the frame. From 
one of these there depended the fragments of a checked 
cotton duster, stuffed in there by some one to ward off, 
more or less, the draught. 



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3 oo TALES OF THE UNEASY 

The shower was over, and the sun had come out, and 
sent warm rays across the worm-eaten floor, the floor 
whereon in the old days the feudal servants of the manor 
house had slept, weary feet to weary feet, fastened in all 
night by their lord, with no egress save by the little 
locked door at the foot of the staircase. The lord of old 
dared not leave his slaves free to murder their taskmaster 
in his sleep. There may have been at that time about a 
hundred healthy farm-hands keeping each other warm 
and their spirits up through the long night with jests and 
story-telling; now this enormous garret held but one 
sickly, fearful, solitary child. 

Oh ! who had done this ? . . . His head swam with 
dreadful certainties. 

A great bluebottle flew in at the window, and buzzed 
in and out of the rafters over Mary's head. She was past 
noticing it, but it irritated Ensor and he wanted to get up 
and chase it away. But he could not bear to deposit the 
child on the filthy palliasse again. The same with a 
cockroach that made blundering rushes from one joist to 
another of the decayed ribs of the flooring. . . . There 
was probably vermin in that bed, and on the child even, 
but he was past caring. ... He could not beat his 
breast, Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! or 
tear his hair ; his hands were tied, occupied with the task 
they should have set themselves long months agone — the 
work to which his down-pressed heart had all along in- 
stigated him. But in this moment he expiated fully what 
he described to himself as his rotten carelessness, his 
wicked easy-going acceptance of Adelaide's excuses, his 
shameful apathy in the face of the cruel crime that 
was being enacted in his house — in Adelaide's house 
indeed, but the shame was his. Here was a helpless 
child, dying under his roof, of neglect, or worse, and 
he had had the face to stand before that Committee corn- 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 301 

posed of decent people, and had been puzzled by their 
quite natural behaviour. They were unfriendly; dis- 
gusted, outraged by his pusillanimity, of which they 
probably had an inkling, or more than an inkling. 
What about those boys looking over the wall ! .' . . He 
had expostulated with the Committee for admitting an 
unpleasant work of fiction into their list — a solecism at 
worst. He was thinking of Phillis's morals whilst Mary 
starved ! He knew now what Mrs. Marrable had meant. 

That harridan in the right ! 

Dying of neglect and worse ! His hand stole towards 
the open front of the child's nightgown. With sudden 
resolve he turned her body quite round on his knee, and 
pushed the garment down to her middle. 

Yes, the scars that play such an important part in the 
evidence when these sort of cases come before the court 
were all there, fresh and old scars ; deep and superficial ; 
healed, ill-healed, and suppurating. He turned the body 
round again, and felt Mary's pulse. It seemed to him 
to be almost non-existent. . . . 

Another long ten minutes — savage, agonizing, inter- 
minable 1 ... He knew nothing about it . . . but he 
wished the doctor would come ! The nurse had probably 
not been able to catch him before he saw Phillis, and 
had had to wait to waylay him until his official visit 
was over. 

And as the child lay across his knee, to all appearances 
comatose, something grey and loathsome did crawl out 
from the screwed black hair on to the forehead. . . . He 
pulled out his handkerchief from his breast coat pocket, 
he felt no sense of disgust to weaken his efficiency. . . . 
Such things are ! ... It was all part of the horror that 
had surely now culminated and left him seared and 
stunned, shamed and blighted. . . . 
The child sighed, and with a pathetic hint of the baby 



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302 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

ways that had been scorched and made to perish out 
of her, crept closer into his embrace. Her sigh may have 
been one of relief, Ensor fondly hoped it. . . . 

The bluebottle buzzed, the black-beetle looked out 
again from the crinkled folds of the Daily Telegraph 
which Ensor had flung down. ... He did not move, 
he hardly thought, he was conscious only of the child 
nestling in his arms as if he were its new-found father, 
and a peace was his, a peace he had never known, as if 
his soul had at last found its billet. . . . 

When Nurse Ferrier came up at last with the doctor, 
he smiled. 

" Do what you can for her, Doctor," he said pleadingly. 

"Why wasn't I called before?" Hodgson began 
angrily. Nurse Ferrier touched his arm. Ensor saw it- 

The doctor imperiously pulled the duster out of the 
window-hole to make more light for himself, and return- 
ing, laid the child down on the wretched pallet and 
methodically examined her. The examination over, he 
gently pulled the shawl into position so as to cover her, 
and rose from his knees. 

"Mr. Ensor, I must see Mrs. Ensor about this," he 
said gravely. 

On the way down the narrow flight of stairs Ensor 
summoned breath to ask a question. 

"Is she dying?" 

"Probably," was the doctor's curt reply, and it was 
all he would vouchsafe. 

Adelaide was in the hall and came to meet theirt. 

"Where have you been, Doctor?" she asked sus- 
piciously. Her eyes fell and rested scornfully on her 
husband. . . . 

" Wald, you look pretty bad. Go and get yourself a 
whiskey and soda." 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 303 

"Yes, do," said Hodgson. He turned to Adelaide, 
with a rough dignity of manner. "Mrs. Ensor, it is my 
duty to tell you both that if that child upstairs dies I shall 
refuse a certificate and order an inquest." 

Wald almost admired Adelaide now for her pluck. A 
spasm of annoyance, no more, crossed her face, and 
turning, she led the way across the hall towards her 
morning-room. She said over her shoulder — 

"She's only shamming. It seems to me you want a 
drink too, Doctor. That was thunder we heard just 
now. It's upset you both. Wald, be good enough to 
send Nurse Ferrier straight to me here. I'm going to 
sack her." 

She went into the portion of the hall that was screened 
off, and seeing that both the men disregarded her gesture 
of invitation to go further and stayed in the main hall, 
she shrugged her shoulders and flung herself on to 
her tiger-skin, turning her back, motionless. 

The doctor looked at Ensor, and spoke meditatively. 

"In Mrs. Ensor's present state 1 . . ." he murmured. 
"Perhaps I had better speak to you, Mr. Ensor? . . ." 

"Certainly," Ensor said, leading the way into the 
dining-room. "I may say before you speak that I know 
nothing of this. But that's no matter," he went on, "the 
blame is mine." 

He rang the bell. " Ask Gertrude to come to me here," 
he said to a maid who appeared at the service door at 
the end. 

The girl hesitated. She had something in her 
hand. • . . 

" What is it ? What is it ? " Ensor asked testily. 

" I was going to show the doctor, Sir, what Mary had 
to eat." 

She held out a plate for their inspection with some 
toast rinds and the remains of dripping fat adhering to 



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304 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

the sides. ... In her other hand she held a mug, into 
which Dr. Hodgson peered. 

"H'm, a concoction of tea-leaves. . . ." 

41 She was fed, Sir, worse than the dog," the girl con- 
tinued volubly. "Biscuits was bought for him. She 
never complained, not she — too frightened for that, for 
if she did she got the stick " 

" Who beat her ? " Ensor asked, furiously. 

"Mrs. Ensor, till she got ill. She used to take the 
poker to her. There's all the marks on her back now — 
you've seen 'em, Doctor?" 

"Yes, yes. Hold your tongue now," Hodgson said. 

He turned to Ensor who stood quietly beside him, 
receiving the unbearable douche of the servant-girl's 
revelations with such fortitude as he was able to muster. 
" If the child dies there will have to be an inquest. I 
must give the nurse some directions. Where is she? 
Be off, back to your work ! " he bade the kitchen-maid, 
"and ask Nurse to come to me." 

Nurse Ferrier, quiet, composed, unsmiling, appeared 
in the doorway, and Ensor scrutinized her face for news 
as eagerly as if he had not possessed the gift of speech. 

" Is she dead ? " he at last breathed. 

"No, Sir, no," she answered kindly after a pause, 
recalled, as it were, from other thoughts. Ensor did not 
catch the almost imperceptible shake of the doctor's head 
that came hard upon her words. The nurse continued, 
softly, appealing to her chief. "We won't let her die, 
will we, Doctor ! " 

"Not if we can help it," he replied gruffly. "Get 
yourself a drink, Mr. Ensor, and buck up now ! There 
will be a lot to do presently." 

Ensor slowly walked away and the doctor turned to 
the nurse. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 305 

"I wouldn't give a farthing for that child's life, you 
know," he said. " Have you brought her down ? " 

"Yes, she's in the spare bedroom. Mr. Ensor would 
wish her to have the best of everything, ... I 
think? . . ." 

Her long drooping eyes were raised to the doctor's 
for a moment. She wanted to talk to him, and he knew 
it. But he did not, at this juncture, care to throw any 
deductions he might have made from facts patent to both 
of them, into the common fund, and he interposed the. 
chill of professional etiquette between himself and her 
possible confidences. 

He walked quickly, meditating the while, down the 
narrow flagged way that led from the house door to the 
gate in the wall, where his horse was being held for him 
by James, the half idiotic manservant; the only male 
creature, excepting her husband, whom Adelaide would 
tolerate about the place. To-day, however, expecting as 
usual to have the whole of the path to himself, the 
doctor almost hustled a person of quite a different 
type from James's, a smart, slight, efficient young fellow 
slipping briskly up to the house. Hodgson apolo- 
gized. The stranger, who was dressed in some sort of 
uniform, looked curiously at him, as if about to speak, 
but thought better of it and passed on. 

After some little delay, Gertrude came to her master 
in the dining-room where he had summoned her. She 
looked hurried, portentous, but at the same time, armed 
with the indifference of fat people. Her wide apron was 
covered here and there with spots of gravy or blood ; he 
supposed she had been "drawing" chickens or killing 
them. Her bib was pinned up at the corners over her 
ample bosom. She had no right to have a breast; she 
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306 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

had no right to be made like a woman. He loathed her, 
the agent of Adelaide's system, the janissary who with 
fiendish personal lust of cruelty had brutally carried out 
his poor wife's unholy theories. 

And all the while, the uncomfortable consciousness was 
his, that whatever his contempt of Gertrude, it was 
equalled by her scorn of him. This abominable woman 
looked down on him ; in her eyes lurked the conception of 
him as something mean and pitiful and likable, yes, she 
awarded him a certain amount of good-humoured com- 
miseration. And she was his cook ! 

"I couldn't come before," she said sturdily. "I've been 
up with Phillis, who's left all alone because of this 
business. Be done as soon as you can, Sir, for I want 
to get back to the poor child." 

"You will tell me before you go, please, how long this 
has been going on ? How long have you been neglect- 
ing and ill-treating your own child ? " 

The woman sneered. 

"Mary, d'ye mean? Well, you see, Mary all along 
was only allowed to be here, as you might say, through 
the kindness of Miss Adelaide, as being her cook's child." 
She continued, as if repeating a lesson learned by heart, 
"Miss Adelaide — Mrs. Ensor — has always been very 
good to me and I've been the same to her. But it stands 
to reason that Mrs. Ensor wasn't going to bring up my 
bastard like a lady. Mary Adelaide— that's her name- 
had to be trained to be a servant and work for her bread, 
like her mother's always done, and when she didn't work, 
she had to be beat." 

" And what was the work you set a child of ten to do ? " 
Ensor asked, striving at calmness. 

"Child of ten— she's fifteen, same as Phillis! Well, 
let me see, she cleaned the silver, setting down to it every 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 307 

day, and swept a room, or may be two, and did down the 
steps, and her own sewing and mending." 

" And what did she have to eat ? " 

•'What the girl showed you . . ." Gertrude said, 
throwing up her chin in sullen pride of evil-doing. 
" Scraps what was left over from the day before. That is, 
if I would remember to give it her, and she never re- 
minded me. Too soft, shameful lazy she was, too, and 
one had to take a stick or a poker to her to make her 
bustle. Whoap ! Go 'long I was all the kind words she 
got. And a neat cut across her back. She was that lazy 
they never had time to heal before there was a new stripe 
laid over the last one." 

" My God ! A young child ! " He covered his face 
with his hands. 

Gertrude regarded him. Some shifting of values took 
place in her heavy brain. She came a step nearer, and 
her voice lost its tone of coarse bravado. 

"You must know, Sir, I had my orders? " 

" Your orders, woman ! Your orders to play the 
murderess! You, the unnatural mother " 

"You may look a little nearer home for the unnatural- 
ness, if you will have it ? Some folks is very blind, and 
deaf, too." 

" What do you mean ? " 

His tone was violent. The cook said, patiently, 
raising her apron to her face — 

" I'll say no more, Sir. I must be going- 



"Stop I " cried Ensor furiously. "You brute " 

"Call me brute, Sir!" Gertrude answered, almost 
modestly. ... 

Then her temper rose, she flushed. 

"Do you know who's awaiting for me in my back 
kitchen where I told him to stop ? " she said passion- 
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308 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

ately. "No one won't go away from here, Mister, I 
said, so long as I give you my word. But I'd some- 
thing I'd like to say to Mr. Ensor first before he saw 
him, I said, and it would be best for all parties if I could 
get it said. So he let me come, though he's not a-going 
back without seeing you ! " 

She produced a dirty card, from the bosom of her 
dress, and handed it to her master. . . . 

• •••••• 

The nurse met the doctor on the doorstep when he 
came back half an hour later. Her manner was instruc- 
tive as she came forward, her finger on her lip, and he 
knew what she would tell him. 

"Mary's gone, Doctor. Half an hour ago. And 
Mrs. Ensor has bolted herself into her bedroom, and 
won't answer to any one. I'm afraid she's bad. And " 
— she dropped her voice — "there's a man shut in the 
library with Mr. Ensor. Here's what he brought. I 
found it on the floor of the dining-room just now." 

She produced the card, stained with blood where 
Gertrude's fingers had grasped it. "Only fowl's ! " she 
said apologetically. The doctor took it. 

"The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 
Children. Inspector G. W. Kelson ! " he exclaimed. 
"That's Mrs. Marrable ! She said she was going to 
put the Society on to them." 

"She's a bit late," the nurse said. 

"By half an hour," he echoed her, as they went in 
together. 

"You never heard anything like it," the nurse con- 
tinued, as they proceeded upstairs; "Gertrude, the cook - 
here has been telling me. And who she is and all. 
They've just killed her — by inches." 

"Not by inches, by yards," corrected Dr. Hodgson. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN _ 309 

He was very indignant. "The child's back is covered 
with unhealed sores — suppurating. She doesn't weigh 
more than forty-eight pounds. Sixty-two she should 
have. Systematic neglect and outrageous cruelty! 
They'll have to answer for it." 

"Mr. Ensor knew nothing of it, I'll swear," the nurse 
said quickly. 

"Yes. His wife leads him by the nose," replied 
Hodgson. 

"She's a caution!" exclaimed the nurse, with 
virulence. 

"And she'll get off, because of her condition. They 
always admit that." 

"When it's her own child, Doctor? Of course you 
know it's her own child ? " 

"I suspected it," he said quietly. 

They had come into the great, wide, lightly-papered, 
spare bedroom, with three tall windows looking out over 
the grey gravel sweep in front of the house. The 
windows were wide open. The gardener could be heard 
sharpening his old-fashioned instrument ready for cut- 
ting the scrap of lawn beyond the gravel. Profession- 
ally, perfunctorily, the doctor looked at and examined 
what lay on the bed. Then, while the nurse finished 
her work, he strolled to a window and stared out, wait- 
ing to see the master of the house, whose voice could 
be heard urgently talking in the room immediately 
below. 

The nurse, dabbling sponges m hot water, going 
backwards and forwards with towels, talked. She had 
not talked for weeks. 

"The likeness ! " she said. "Don't you see it strong 
now she's dead, Doctor? I must say I noticed it the 
very first moment he came up into that garret where they" 



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io TALES OF THE UNEASY 

had put the poor child away to sleep — or to die, as it 
happened. Nobody'd been near her for days. Gertrude 
thought Mrs. Ensor had, and she thought — God knows 
what she thought!" She shuddered. "There wasn't 
so much as a jug of water there. Mrs. Ensor hoped 
Mary would die, and Gertrude didn't care. She's a 
regular bad one. She was cook to Mrs. Ensor before 
she married and had a baby there, and Miss Adelaide's 
father, he was a doctor, and he gave her a certificate of 
death. He was a wicked old man, by all accounts. So 
when Miss Adelaide got into trouble, this woman helped 
her. . . ." 

All the while she talked, she was busying herself about 
the wretched little body of Mary. The doctor stood at 
his post near the window, waiting for Mr. Ensor's visitor 
to go, listening to the nurse's talk as he lightly slashed 
his top-boots with his riding-whip, and decided what 
he would do. He liked Ensor, and wanted to make it 
easy for him. 

"And," Nurse Ferrier continued, "she says they 
bought this house with its high walls all round, because 
Miss Adelaide didn't care to be seen about much. She 
was ashamed, not so much because she had had a baby 
without being married, but because it was such a 
wretched little specimen. She called herself Mrs. 
Dibben — that was the name of Gertrude's man — he was 
a prize-fighter. I make out that he was in prison at 
the time. Any way, he was never seen again. ... . . 

Gertrude says they were all going on quite quietly, and 
the two children brought up like sisters. . . . Mrs. 

Ensor had almost come to think, Gertrude says, that it 
was the other way about, and that the beautiful child 
was hers, and the wretched one the cook's. . . . Gertrude 

didn't care — her child was the gainer. . . . But that the 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 311 

day Mr. Ensor came, Mrs. Ensor rushed into the kitchen 
like a mad thing, and said she'd told him Phillis was 
hers and Mary Gertrude's, and that was the way it had 
to be, for he was coming to live here. Doctor, what 
do you think of that ? " 

" I think, if it's true, it's a disgusting business. But 
I don't quite believe it." 

"I do," said the nurse stoutly. "I am coming to 
believe it. That woman — Mrs. Ensor — is bad enough 
for anything and she simply couldn't have had a 
nice simple child like Phillis, not if she tried ever 
so!" 

"There, he's gone!" said Hodgson, leaving the 
window. He came to the bedside and surveyed the 
child's small body lying straight, neatly, fairly disposed. 
The nurse stood proudly away from her work — 

"She looks nice, now, doesn't she, Doctor? I've put 
her on one of Miss Phillis's smart nightgowns. Gertrude 
went in to Mrs. Ensor's room and got it for me. She's 
not so bad, you know, Gertrude ; she only did as she was 
told. Mrs. Ensor did the beating and wouldn't let her 
—positively wouldn't let her give the child nourishing 
food." 

" How is Mrs. Ensor ? Did you gather ? " 
"Quite calm, Gertrude says, though she knows every- 
thing." 

"She's absolutely determined not to let herself have 
a miscarriage, that's about it," said Hodgson, buttoning 
his coat. "She's got plenty of self-control and courage 
of a kind." 

"Courage— to be cruel ! " exclaimed the nurse, glanc- 
ing at the human piece of wreckage on the bed. "And 
I should say that if she thinks it necessary to starve 
her children to death if they happen to be born weak- 



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312 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

lings, that the chances are she'll have to kill the next 
too, even if she does manage to get it born all right, 
and I have my doubts about that. She's far too keen 
about it, too " 

"What's that?" Hodgson interrupted, cocking his 
ear. 

"Mrs. Ensor's door ! " 

" He's gone in to her, then ! " 

They looked at each other. 

• •••••• 

Ensor, speaking urgently to his wife at the closed 
door of her room, anxious to impart some intelligence 
he had just received, could get no reply from her. He 
did not give it up, but continued to call her by her name 
— Adelaide. She had a pet name, chosen by herself. 
He remembered it, but he could not bring himself to 
use it. 

Half an hour seemed to elapse. He heard a groan. 

Though he hated her, it frightened him, for there was 
no one with her. He changed the tenor of his appeals. 

"Adelaide, if you are ill, you must not shut yourself 
up like this. You may do harm to yourself — and to the 
child. If you won't see me, at least let me send Gertrude 
to you." 

Then she spoke. 

"Wald, I am not very ill — not more ill than I expect 
to be. For I am going to have a child. It will not be 
quite yet. As soon as it is born, I shall kill myself, but 
not till then. So you need not be afraid." 

Her voice sounded fainter,- she had turned away from 
the door. He was astonished at her self-control — "not 
more ill than I expect to be ! " He felt that he ought 
to see for himself how she was. Bitterly, dispassion- 
ately, he made the attempt. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 313 

"Let me see you, then," he said gently. "Just for 
one moment ! " 

" Is it to scold me ? " Her voice sounded close to the 
door. " I am not to be scolded — now." 

The key was turned in the lock, and he made his way 
in. His wife stood there on the threshold, half defiant, 
half apologetic. As he knew Adelaide, the deprecation 
was much for her. Her beautiful mournful eyes sought 
his. They held no cryel gleams, such as had lurked 
there so lately, when they had talked of Mary. Her dull 
black silk peignoir was gathered round her ; she held it 
looped pathetically in one thin hand. Yet he was not 
moved. He only thought of her health, pathologically, 
as a doctor might. It was his duty. He had neglected 
his other duty lately. 

She put up her sharp chin. Her hand let slip the 
folds of black, they fell all round her, trailing. . . . 

"Kiss me, Wald ! " she said. 

"No, I cannot." 

She turned, and moved towards the sofa that stretched 
across the foot of her bed. Her stumble over the long 
embarrassing folds of the garment she wore was a mute 
reproach, but it could not affect him, to the extent of 
inducing him to comply with her request. . . . She 
breathed heavily and sat down on the sofa. . . . 

"See Gertrude, then. She will tell you all you want 
to know." 

"Your cook! Adelaide, tell me yourself. Oh, 
why ?" 

She rocked backwards and forwards and nursed her 
knees. 

"I could not bear the sight of her, I tell you ! " she 
answered him passionately. "She was a degenerate. 
She disgraced me. She wasn't fit to live, she ought 



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,14 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

never to have been born — never even have been con- 
ceived! But she shames her father, not me ! ... I 
am a normal healthy woman and all disease is repugnant 
to me. It's a law — a law that was infringed. . . . She 
pays the penalty. . . . And to see her going about day 
by day, the living testimony of unfitness — of beastli- 
ness. . . . Why, the sight of her peaked, suffering face, 
old and yellow — she looked like that even in her cradle 
— from the very first moment that Gertrude showed her 
to me — that finished me ! For I insisted on seeing her 
at once, I was fit enough, I was about in a week. . . . 
Then when I came to look closer — her awful hand — did 
you know that she had a finger less on her right hand ? 
. . . Still, I nursed her myself, I — faugh ! " 

She put her handkerchief to her bitten lips — there was 
blood on it when she took it away. 

"Then when you came — I saw you look at her, in the 
car, and again, when we got out, and you carried the 
rugs for her as we walked up the drive — that was 
enough ! I made up my mind then, and I hive never 
repented it. Never, never, I tell you. You would never 
have married me, if you had known, for you have the 
same ideas as me. Wald, that's what I liked in you, 
only I didn't know that you were a coward — a mean, 
canting, respectable, conventional coward — what they 
used to call lily-livered — or is it pigeon-livered ? " 

"Sneer at me if you like, Adelaide, but explain. 
Damn you, explain ! " he cried, forgetting himself, for- 
getting her state, forgetting everything under the stress 
of the terrible, nearly formulated Horror. 

"What's there to explain?" she said. "I hated the 
child, and I beat her. I beat her to death, that's all I " 

He groaned in helplessness, overcome by her fierce 
self-sufficiency. 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 315 

"But had you no sort of human feeling, no woman's 
tenderness ? You've been a mother — there's surely such 
a thing as a mother's heart . . . ? " 

Adelaide looked at him wearily, shuddering. . . . 

"Been a mother — yes. And you? — what about your 
tenderness — your heart ? We used to wonder that your 
heart didn't tell you when you heard her calling out — 
screaming — yelling? I beat her, I tell you, I beat her 
within an inch of her life, filthy, hateful object that I'd 
brought into the world — through you ! Pah ! " 

She flung herself down. Her tone was so piercing, 
so foreign, so unknown to him, who had learned to 
expect every variation in Adelaide, that he cried, in panic 
fear merely — 

"For God's sake, keep your head, Adelaide I Don't 
go mad now, on top of it all ! " 

"Oh, I'm not mad, not a bit of it, can't you see, you 
fool? But, no, you can't see, you can't see anything, 
unless it's under, your nose. It was under your nose, 
and you worried and worried, and yet you didn't see 
it ! Here you are — Mary's your own child — and mine ! 
Mine ! Yours ! Don't you remember that night — that 
night after ' Tristan ' ? " 

"No, I remember nothing. Be quiet, now!" He 
held up his hand, as if to ward off a blow. "Where is 
she?" 

"My God, /don't know." 

She fell back. Her pains had begun. He took no 
notice. 

"I'm going to Mary," he murmured. 

She rushed forward, and bolted the door behind him. 

The doctor and the nurse were still waiting by the 
body of Mary. Aware of the portentous visit of In- 



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316 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

spector Kelson, Hodgson fancied he might be of some use. 
He might do Ensor a good turn in allocating much 
of the blame, which the husband was so generously- 
anxious to take on his own shoulders, on to the wife's, 
where it belonged. There were reasons why she should 
be better able to bear it than he, the law would be merci- 
ful to her in her then condition. 

Hodgson could not fathom her. He was merely an 
overworked, overdriven country doctor, riding about 
daily from one case to another. That the maladies of 
the hardy, normal, if worn-out wives of the labouring 
classes were of a painful and dreary similarity, and com- 
pletely relieved him of the necessity of keeping himself 
up to date with the new departures in medicine, was 
perhaps the reason that be did not break down from 
obvious overwork. His old mare who carried her sleep- 
ing master on her back along the same old roads to the 
same old cottages to attend to Hodge's same wife's 
seventh baby was as well preserved as he. 

A complicated, abnormal case like Mrs. Ensor's; 
circumstances so dramatic as this affair at High Walls 
seldom or never came his way. And events in this house 
had in the last twenty-four hours succeeded each other 
with such a bewildering rapidity that he felt himself 
excused from keeping up too rigid an attitude with the 
nurse, who, like himself, was humanly and profession- 
ally interested, and he permitted himself a certain 
relaxation in talking to her. 

Nurse Ferrier, on the other hand, having been shut 
up in High Walls for many days under the rigorous 
rule of Adelaide, was enjoying herself thoroughly. All 
the while that Ensor was closeted with Mrs. Ensor she 
continued freely to develop her physiological views, leav- 
ing the room, only for a moment, to get some white 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 317 

flowers to lay upon the child's breast. They heard 
voices from the next room, and her open, and his pro- 
fessionally concealed, curiosity was wrought up to the 
highest pitch when suddenly these voices ceased, and 
they heard the click of a latch and a step in the 
corridor. . . . 

Then the door of the room they were in was opened 
with deliberation and the hero of their surmises and of 
their sympathy walked into the room. 

He did not really seem to see them, as they observed 
afterwards, although he moved his head slightly as he 
passed the doctor and made what might pass as a grunt 
of recognition. His politeness survived in the overthrow 
of all his standards and hopes and ambitions. They 
stood humbly aside; it was his hour. No one, so far 
as they knew, had told him that Mary was dead, but 
he could not help knowing it when his eyes had rested 
for a moment on what lay on the bed. 

At a sign from Hodgson, the nurse left the room. 
The doctor followed her. The two stood in the corridor 
outside, looking nervously, now at that door of the room 
they had just vacated, now at that which gave admit- 
tance to Mrs. Ensor's apartments, whence came no sound 
of stirring. 

Five minutes later, Wald Ensor came out of the bed- 
room, carrying the body of the child in his arms very 
carefully. As he passed his wife's door, with his 
burden, it was opened sharply and as suddenly closed 
again. Mrs. Ensor had looked out. 

Hodgson and Ferrier followed Ensor downstairs, won- 
dering what he was going to do, afraid that he had gone 
suddenly mad and that they would have to interfere. 

But so far he was perfectly quiet, restrained, and 
measured in his movements. He walked steadily, 



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318 TALES OF THE UNEASY 

balancing what he carried as a nurse does a baby, down 
into the hall, where the autumn fire leaped on the hearth, 
and the charred logs tinkled as they fell. He went 
through it into the portion railed off with screens and 
arm-chairs, and, stooping, deposited the corpse of his 
child on the tiger-skin which lay spread over the sofa— 
the old yellow sofa from Portland Place. The creases 
were in the skin that his wife had made when she was 
lying there only yesterday. Her bag — one of her bags 
— lay on it, and with a violent gesture of his occupied 
hand, Ensor swept it off. 

Then, deliberately, as if he were in church, he knelt 
down beside the little white-robed form, smoothed the 
folds of the nightgown his hands had disarrayed, and 
half raising her, taking her in his arms, covered her with 
kisses long and deep. 

He did not lift his head when Gertrude, her apron 
cast aside, a puzzling figure with her unaccustomed 
black surfaces displayed, pushed open the red baize 
door, and stood, savagely poised, her bony, floury arms 
resting on her hips. . . . 

" Go back ! " the doctor said, in a loud whisper. 

Gertrude paid no heed. Her dull faithful eyes were 
raised, fixed on something she saw at the head of the 
staircase. It was her mistress who was even -now 
descending. The nurse darted forward, and in so doing 
her dress caught in an accidental nail in one of the 
screens and made it fall over the end of the couch. Wald 
Ensor looked up, he kept hold of the child's hand. . . . 
Adelaide continued to descend. Gertrude went a step 
to meet her, but Adelaide waved her away. ... 

Then Ensor rose, for Adelaide had reached the bottom 
of the staircase and was coming to him, and Mary. . . ., 
She tottered, but she came on. . . . 



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THE TIGER-SKIN 319 

Her husband raised his finger and pointed it at her, 
and she ceased, trembling, to advance. . . . Gertrude 
strode up to her and held her shoulder. Her state was 
obvious — she no longer took pains to conceal it. 

"Listen, all of you ! " Ensor was saying, in the same 
-gloomy, intent voice he had used all day. "I pray to 
r Almighty God that this woman may never live to bear 
another child ! " 

• •••••• 

He stayed for the inquiry into the death of Mary; 
he bore himself like a man. Then he left England, and 
his wife never saw him again. She survived the birth 
of her child, stillborn. 



THE END 



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.br rad street hill, e.c, and 

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